AFA Letter to Senate Commerce: Involuntary Reduction in Hours Side-Steps Congressional Intent for CARES Act

WASHINGTON, DC (May 6, 2020) — The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA) submitted a letter to the Senate Commerce, Science, Transportation Committee ahead of today’s hearing: “The State of the Aviation Industry: Examining the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic.”  Among other topics addressed in the letter including essential worker status, necessary safety protections and the status of the payroll support program. AFA President Sara Nelson raises a key issue: the undermining of the CARES Act by a couple airlines. The letter reads in part: 

“We appreciate the overwhelmingly positive partnership with carriers of all sizes that have worked to closely follow the statutory obligations of the Act and meet their ongoing obligations to workers. Despite the clear statutory language in the CARES Act requiring carriers who receive payroll grants to maintain pay levels and benefits, a small number of carriers are attempting to flout the Act and cheat workers. These outliers have accepted federal payroll grant dollars while slashing hours and pay, in clear violation of Congressional intent and the express language of the CARES Act. Delta Air Lines was the first out of the gate with cuts to hours and worker take home pay. The carrier made the decision to cut ground crew hours by as much as 40%  without consulting with workers and set in motion a vicious and escalating pattern of cuts considered by other airlines. Delta Air Lines Flight Attendants have asked their management to commit to a minimum number of monthly hours equivalent to the amount delineated in the Flight Attendant contract of Delta’s closest industry comparator, but to date Delta management has refused to do so, making clear its plans to slash Flight Attendant hours and benefits below established industry minimum standards as well.

“The goal of these illegal payroll cuts is clearly to hoard grant dollars until after September 30, when the prohibition against involuntary furloughs and layoffs of workers ends. Slash hours now, fire workers in October, and stockpile billions of dollars that was intended for workers in order to subsidize ongoing airline operations and gain a competitive advantage over any carrier that used the funds as intended to maintain jobs, paychecks and benefits. If left unchecked by Congress, the Treasury Department, and other oversight bodies, the result will be a race to the bottom, penalizing companies that do right by their workers in disbursing payroll grants to workers as Congress intended.

“Forcing workers to take unpaid time off or involuntary reductions in hours is a violation of the Act, which forbids any involuntary furloughs or reduction in worker pay and benefits. If carriers want workers to consider taking time off, they must create voluntary programs that are not in violation of the CARES Act.”

Read the full letter >


The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, (AFA) AFL-CIO represents nearly 50,000 Flight Attendants at 19 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

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