March 20, 2020
As you are well aware, the U.S. airline industry has been devastated by the novel coronavirus pandemic. Demand for air travel has decreased drastically and our nation’s airlines are on the verge of extinction if they do not receive the right kind of aid.
U.S. airlines directly employ 750,000 people in the U.S. and indirectly support millions of U.S. jobs. It is one of the most highly unionized industries in this country. Most employees are entitled to good wages and good benefits. The industry is an important enabler of economic growth and development and will play a vital role in this country’s recovery in the hard months ahead.
Recently, the U.S. Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) that would provide significant economic stimulus to the economy and targeted financial assistance to U.S. industry, including the commercial air transportation industry. While we applaud the efforts of Congress and believe the amount of targeted aid contained in the package will go a long way to shore up the beleaguered air transportation industry, the IAM believes that it is not acceptable to require that the entirety of the targeted stimulus be in the form of loans.
The U.S. airline industry’s balance sheets, while healthier than in the aftermath of 9/11, are still plagued by high debt levels. To add more debt to the carriers during this crisis and a probable ensuing recession would set them up to use the U.S. bankruptcy laws to break employee collective bargaining agreements, short change creditors, and essentially clear the slate. This is exactly what happened post 9/11 and we cannot make the same mistakes that were made previously.
We respectfully request that the U.S. airline industry receive direct aid via grants to ensure that airline workers remain employed and don’t miss a paycheck. We also request that this aid be conditioned on the airlines not breaking employee collective bargaining agreements. These are two necessary components of any aid package.
By backstopping the U.S. airline industry via grants, ensuring we keep airline workers employed, and preventing airline management from utilizing the U.S. bankruptcy code to devastate workers and creditors, we will provide what is needed to protect the hundreds of thousands of American workers in one of the most vital American industries.
We must also remember that the U.S. airline sector is not in a crisis due to mismanagement or any structural problems within the industry. This crisis is due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re not asking for a bailout, we are asking for help.
For more information, please contact Legislative Director Hasan Solomon at (202) 420-5902 or via email at email@example.com.
Robert Martinez, Jr.