May 05, 2021

Van Hollen, Hirono, Schatz, Brown, Blumenthal, Menendez, Booker Call for United Airlines to Stop Outsourcing 2,500 Catering Jobs

United Airlines received $7.7 billion in taxpayer dollars to retain employees during the pandemic, but has since announced bonuses for top executives and planned job cuts for workers

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) along with their colleagues Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) sent letters yesterday to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby about United Airlines’ intention to outsource inflight catering jobs for thousands of workers based in Honolulu, Cleveland, Denver, Houston, and Newark.

In the letter to Secretary Yellen, the lawmakers note that the Payroll Support Program (PSP) for the airline industry was extended under the American Rescue Plan and was created to keep people employed during the pandemic, and that outsourcing jobs while paying top executives bonuses is inconsistent with congressional intent.

“We believe it is inconsistent with Congress’ intent in creating the PSP program for airlines to outsource jobs while committing to bonuses for top executives once the PSP program restrictions on executive compensation have expired. We respectfully ask you to require any new PSP agreement with United Airlines or any applicant require the airline to refrain from outsourcing jobs and to rescind or refrain from making any commitments to provide executive bonuses while airlines are receiving payments under the PSP,” the lawmakers wrote to Secretary Yellen.

In their letter to United Airlines, the lawmakers call for United to not outsource the over 2,500 catering jobs, explaining that Congress helped the airline industry financially survive the pandemic, and airline workers should have job security while the economy recovers and travel increases. The letter notes that United Airlines has announced millions in dollars of bonuses for top executives due after the expiration of the limits imposed by the Payroll Support Program.

“Many of the United Airlines catering workers, who are overwhelmingly people of color, have served the airline for decades. We are also concerned that United’s plans to outsource the catering jobs will jeopardize workers’ continued union representation. We are aware that United Airlines opposed the workers’ effort to join UNITE HERE in 2018, and that in spite of this opposition 72 percent of the catering workers voted in their election in favor of joining the union. Instead of working towards outsourcing jobs, United should use the time afforded by the Payroll Support Program to engage in good faith negotiations with these employees and their union, who have been working without a contract for over two years and whose work has helped United survive during this challenging period,” the lawmakers wrote to United Airlines.

The full letter to Secretary Yellen can be found here and the full letter to United Airlines can be found here