Elected officials and 32BJ: ‘Include airport workers in bailout’

Stephon Johnson | 3/26/2020, midnight
The airline companies might see some relief, but workers want a piece of the action.
Airport

The airline companies might see some relief, but workers want a piece of the action.

Workers at John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airports were served layoff notices last week after the government restricted flights due to COVID-19 (or coronavirus). Most of those laid off were contracted cabin cleaners, baggage handlers, wheelchair agents and skycaps.

32BJ President Kyle Bragg said that the workers deserve some of the government money airlines companies might receive.

“We cannot just do the same old trick of opening up the bailout spigot to reward wealthy airline corporations while leaving the most vulnerable workers out in the cold,” stated Bragg. “These workers earn the least yet risk themselves the most. Many lack health care to even care for themselves in the face of this pandemic.”

With Republicans and Democrats fighting over how to aid the country during COVID-19’s reign, Bragg wants the federal government to not forget the little people.

“During this global pandemic, these workers have stepped forward to do their jobs,” stated Bragg. “We are demanding the airlines and Congress not forget the most vulnerable workers as they seek a bailout.”

Working people and elected officials are outraged that thousands of front-line contracted airport workers are being laid off while the airlines lobby for a nearly $60 billion taxpayer bailout. The airline bailout request came with assurances that they would “preserve and protect” jobs, but thousands of contracted airport workers are facing layoffs with many more expected.

Luerica Fiffee was laid off from her passenger service representative job at JFK on Thursday.

“If they are bailing out the airlines, they have to be bailing out the workers,” Fiffee stated. “How am I going to manage? That, I’m not quite sure of yet. Literally no one is hiring. There’s nothing you can do except hope and pray that something gets better.”

The five largest airline companies, American Airlines, United, Southwest, Alaska and Delta, are currently lobbying the government for a nearly $60 billion taxpayer-funded bailout. According to The Guardian, however, the companies doled out more than $45 billion to shareholders and executives over the past five years. Combined with stock buybacks, the companies have drawn the ire of workers and elected officials such as New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. He said that workers shouldn’t be penalized by a public health crisis while the powers that be reap the benefits.

“They do some of the hardest jobs at the airport and receive the lowest wages and often don’t have access to affordable health care or paid time off,” stated Stringer. “We demand that no airline receive any federal assistance without making assurances that all workers are bailed out, too.”

President Donald Trump recently signed a bill that grants paid sick leave for workers. But airline workers were exempted because they’re employed by companies with 500 or more employees. Airline workers want the government to provide sick leave and layoff protections. The calls were echoed by elected officials in New York and New Jersey.

“These layoffs will be another blow in a pandemic that is devastating our communities in more ways than we can count,” stated Newark Mayor Ras Baraka. “Let’s face it, the airlines, while they did not cause the pandemic, by choosing to do layoffs in this manner, are piling misery on us and our community members.”

The same community members that New York City Council Member Donovan Richards said need government-issued help the most.

“Who needs relief more, hard-working New Yorkers who live paycheck to paycheck yet sacrifice the most, or profitable corporations that pay them as little as they could get away with?” asked Richards. “New Yorkers need relief. Members of our communities need relief.”