Flight attendant unions lobby against state ownership in airlines

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Unions representing U.S. airline flight attendants are imploring the Treasury Department not to take ownership stakes in carriers as a condition for providing airlines with federal grants. 

In an April 1 letter to treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin, the unions argued that imposing such a condition could dissuade airlines from accepting grant money, resulting directly in job losses. 

“Keeping people on the job is the only reason why these grants were created,” reads the letter. “While we believe that the Treasury Department should get a good return for taxpayers on its loans to the airlines to address non-payroll expenses, we ask you to act in good faith to protect our jobs and integrity of the payroll grants program.”

The letter was signed by Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA) president Sara Nelson, Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) president Julie Hedrick and Transportation Workers Union (TWU) 556 president Lyn Montgomery. 

AFA represents flight attendants for nearly 20 airlines, including United, Alaska, Spirit and Frontier. APFA represents American Airlines flight attendants. TWU represents Southwest flight attendants. 

The Cares Act provides up to $25 billion in workforce grants to U.S. passenger carriers. Airlines that accept grant money cannot furlough staff or implement pay or benefit cuts through Sept. 30. 

The bill also provides up to $25 billion in government-backed loans to passenger airlines, large travel agencies and aircraft maintenance businesses that can’t obtain loans in the private market. 

A clause in the bill states that the federal government may, at its discretion, use one of several potential financial instruments from airlines as compensation for providing assistance. Those instruments include preferred stock, options, debt securities, notes or warrants.

In the letter, the flight attendant unions said that requiring airlines to surrender equity to the federal government in exchange for grants would amount to a “poison pill, that will cost us our jobs and push us onto taxpayer-funded unemployment insurance -- the opposite of what this bipartisan agreement intended.”

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