Flight Attendants Tell Treasury: Payroll Grants Are for the Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 1, 2020) — Unions representing 100,000 Flight Attendants across the U.S. aviation industry today sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin demanding he not exercise warrants on the CARES Act payroll grants that were designed to keep aviation workers on the job. The letter from AFA International President Sara Nelson, representing Flight Attendants at 20 airlines, APFA National President Julie Hedrick, representing American Airlines Flight Attendants, and TWU 556 President Lyn Montgomery, representing Southwest Flight Attendants, reads in part:

TAKE ACTION: Tell Secretary Mnuchin: You Can't Leverage People!

“The CARES Act ensures that pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, ramp workers, and mechanics, as well as airline caterers, cleaners, and wheelchair attendants, will continue to receive a paycheck and benefits. It keeps our entire industry out of the unemployment line, on the tax rolls, on our health care, and on the job so that we’re ready to fly and get the American economy moving again as soon as the “all clear” sounds.

“While the payroll grants program proudly puts workers first, an eleventh-hour provision snuck into the bill threatens whether workers will ever see the promised relief. It gives the Secretary the authority to take ownership stakes in the airlines in exchange for any funds that keep workers on payroll (Sec. 4117). If the airlines were required to pay back the grants in full with an equity position of $25 billion, that would give the government the equivalent of a 40% stake in airlines in exchange for keeping workers on the payroll for six months. This effectively renders the payroll grants a poison pill that will cost us our jobs and push us onto taxpayer-funded unemployment insurance - the opposite of what this bipartisan agreement intended.

“Aviation workers are taxpayers. We believe that when the public steps in to keep companies afloat, the public deserves a share of corporate profits. That’s why we support the inclusion of warrants on the loans carriers can receive. But these payroll grants are different. They’re not loans to help replenish corporate coffers, and they can’t be spent on general business purposes. They’re a direct pass-through to workers. Like the forgivable loans Congress created in the CARES Act for small business owners, the purpose of the payroll grants is to give employers an incentive to keep their workers on payroll.”

Read the Full Letter

CWA Letter >

Teamsters Letter >


The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO represents 50,000 Flight Attendants at 20 airlines. AFA is the union that has advanced the Flight Attendant profession for 74 years, beating back discrimination and improving wages, benefits, working conditions, and aviation safety, health and security in the aircraft cabin. AFA also partners with the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afacwa.org.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) is the largest independent Flight Attendant Union, representing solely the Flight Attendants of American Airlines. From its beginnings in 1977 to now, APFA members have known both triumph and tragedy. APFA has fiercely advocated for the Flight Attendant profession and has been at the forefront of change for workplace equality, women’s and human rights. APFA focuses 100% of its energy on its members, 27,000+ strong Flight Attendants who share a proud and diverse history of careers as airline safety professionals from multiple legacy airlines.

TWU Local 556 represents 17,000 Flight Attendants at Southwest Airlines. Local 556’s parent union, the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), AFL-CIO, represents 200,000 workers and retirees in commercial aviation, public transportation and passenger railroads. Visit us at twu556.org.

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