Washington, DC — Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement on the CARES Act:
“We call on lawmakers in Washington to stand with working people by passing the CARES Act. This vital piece of legislation will provide desperately needed support to workers and their families, and ensure our economy remains stable during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We applaud lawmakers for ensuring coronavirus relief funds will reach those who need support the most — including the transportation workers who have been directly impacted by this crisis, and who will play a critical role in restarting our economy once the pandemic is behind us. By pumping nearly $100 billion into our nation’s transportation system, and stipulating that federal funds will make it into the hands of working people, the CARES Act will stabilize critical industries while ensuring workers have the resources and job protections they need to care for their families until this crisis passes.
“Specifically, this bill provides the aviation industry $61 billion in financial assistance, including $25 billion in grants so carriers can keep frontline workers on the job with current benefits. It preserves the strong collective bargaining agreements that have helped make the airline industry a hub of good, middle-class jobs. The bill also provides $10 billion for airports to combat the impacts of the virus and maintain staffing.
“By providing $25 billion for transit, and preventing the Federal Transit Administration from waiving labor protections, the CARES Act ensures the livelihoods of transit workers are not jeopardized and the public’s access to jobs, goods, and other critical resources does not halt.
“This legislation also preserves and protects our national passenger rail system, and its frontline workforce, by providing Amtrak the funding it needs to respond to the coronavirus crisis. It also provides protections for furloughed workers to return to their jobs when normal service levels resume, and it ensures Amtrak cannot receive waivers to important labor laws and Buy America rules.
“Finally, this critical piece of legislation ensures freight rail workers who are economically impacted by this crisis will receive the Railroad Retirement Board benefits they are entitled to by waiving red tape and other unnecessary restrictions.
“While the CARES Act will do a lot of good for a lot of working people, it is certainly not a perfect bill. We are disappointed that airlines and their allies in Congress rejected a provision that would have guaranteed quality health care for thousands of airline catering workers — during a global pandemic, no less. We will continue to fight to provide these workers the health care that they and their families deserve. We also believe that working people deserve greater protections in the event recipients of federal funds declare bankruptcy in the future, or are forced to make concessions on their collectively bargained wages and benefits. Despite these flaws, this bill is a necessary and important piece of legislation that will provide real relief to frontline transportation workers right now, when it is needed most.
“In the weeks and months ahead, transportation labor will continue to fight for our members’ jobs, pay and benefits, and collective bargaining rights in the face of the current economic and public health crisis. We also know that mitigating the long-term economic effects this pandemic is going to cause will require Congress and the administration to take further action. We believe now is the time to prioritize direct spending on transportation infrastructure and services across all modes, which will keep Americans working and support the economic well being of communities across this nation.”