March 20, 2020

Wyden Urges Protections for Airline Employees and Contractors in Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Legislation

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today urged Senate leadership to include protections for employees and contractors in any financial assistance to the airline industry.

The outbreak of coronavirus has dealt a financial blow to the country’s airlines. However, the industry’s business practices over many years have exacerbated the issues they currently face. Following years of corporate tax cuts and consolidation, airlines spent the last five years using 96 percent of their cash flow on stock buybacks, rather than investing in savings or their workforce. During this same period, the industry has actively fought airport workers’ efforts to win living wages, sick days, and health care. As a result, any grants or loans to the industry must now come with protections for employees and employees of contractors performing traditional airline work, including paid sick days, layoff protection, and wage supplements.

“Providing these basic protections for frontline workers is not only a moral obligation, it is a public health imperative to protect a workforce exposed to millions of people each day,” Wyden wrote in a letter with a dozen colleagues to Senate Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer. “Yet the airlines have demonstrated that their priorities do not lie with the public interest. We cannot write them a blank check.” 

In addition to Wyden, the letter also is signed by Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt., Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

A copy of the letter is here.