Airline bailout must protect the workers whose health and livelihood is on the line

Contracted airport workers are on front lines of pandemic, already struggling with low pay and lack of sick days

SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry and contracted airport workers from some of the nation’s top airports are urgently calling on Congress to ensure that any airline bailout prioritizes the health, safety and economic security of the contracted airport workers who keep our airports running every day. 

“It is crucial that policy-makers make absolutely sure that all air transportation workers get support if the airlines get support,” said Henry. “We can't let airlines get away with pocketing a bailout while contracted workers suffer. They need to share the responsibility to address the crisis by supporting those on the front lines. Airport workers—regardless of how old they are, the color of their skin, where they were born, or how much money they make—need equal access to testing, treatment and economic support.”

Cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants and other airport workers are at the center of the coronavirus pandemic, and play a critical role in keeping people safe. Many of them are already struggling on low pay and without paid sick days or health benefits, and now many have been laid off or face possible layoffs.

“The pandemic has turned my life upside down,” says Takiah Garrett, a customer service agent at Newark Liberty International Airport. “I have three kids to take care of and bills to pay, and now airport workers are on the brink of layoffs. I work hard and I come to Newark Liberty every day during this crisis to do my job. Bailouts cannot leave behind contracted workers like me who make air travel possible.”

In this unprecedented time, Congress should do all it can to protect the economic health of the nation, but it is critical that contracted airport workers who come into close contact with millions of passengers every day have full access to emergency relief like layoff protection, paid sick leave, and affordable health care.

· Read more in Insider NJ, The Hill and Travel Weekly

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