From the Frontline to the Unemployment Line
~As airlines get $17 billion more in stimulus money, contracted essential workers face possible layoffs resulting from airline shell game~
Washington, D.C., Tens of thousands of contracted airport workers, predominantly Black and immigrant, could find themselves on the unemployment lines for the holidays resulting from an omission in the bipartisan compromise stimulus bill. As stimulus negotiations near an end, contracted airport workers are calling on House and Senate leadership to fix the bill in time to avoid mass layoffs.
After a year on the frontlines keeping passenger safe and the airline industry afloat, contracted airport workers could be getting pink slips instead of the accolades and job protections they deserve. The compromise bipartisan stimulus bill currently does not include contracted essential airport workers and little or no accountability for how the airline stimulus money is spent, paving the way for mass layoffs of the contracted workforce. While the airlines rake in a whopping $17 billion in taxpayer stimulus funds, they are playing a shell game by replacing contracted workers with direct employees at the taxpayers’ expense.
“When the pandemic first happened, 70 percent of my co-workers were laid off due to the fact that American Airlines replaced them with their own employees,” said Walter Thomas, a Philadelphia airport security officer and 32BJ member, “It took a toll on everyone but mostly on people who lost their jobs. It is about six months later and people are on the verge of losing their homes and some lost loved ones. American Airlines got a bailout of billions of dollars and from my understanding they were not allowed to lay off anyone. The first thing they did was attack the contractor companies and closed a lot of job sites, replacing us with their own employees.”
Over the last five months since first receiving CARES Act money, the airlines have cut contracts left and right and displaced contracted workers by in-housing workers across the country. This next infusion of funding for the airlines could devastate contracted airport workers completely, resulting in unemployment, hunger and homeless for a massive workforce that is already among the lowest paid in the country.
“By leaving contracted airport workers out of the stimulus, Congress is sending a message that a low-wage, mostly Black AND LATINX workforce is collateral damage. The airlines have shown that they will not act in good faith and are willing to play a shell game with taxpayer dollars,” said Kyle Bragg, president of 32BJ SEIU a union representing 30,000 airport workers up and down the East Coast. “It is a travesty that a stimulus that is supposed to protect jobs could result in thousands of contracted workers being kicked to the curb after they have put themselves at risk all year. In a year where the airlines have all expressed their support for diversity and Black Lives Matters, their behavior towards the lowest paid workers of color shows their true colors.”