March 20, 2020

Van Hollen, Markey, Colleagues Urge Protections for Airline Employees and Contractors in Coronavirus Economic Stimulus Legislation

Lawmakers call on Senate leadership to put workers first in any pandemic relief package

U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) joined Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), along with a number of their colleagues, sent a letter to Senate leadership calling for the inclusion of protections for employees and contractors in any financial assistance to the airline industry.

The outbreak of the novel 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,” write the lawmakers in the letter 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.”  

The full text of the letter can be found here.


The letter is also signed by Senators 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.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore,), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).