Waiting for aid: U.S. airline workers ‘pawns’ in stimulus battle

In this news, we discuss the Waiting for aid: U.S. airline workers ‘pawns’ in stimulus battle.

CHICAGO (Reuters) – When not helping her kids with the distant school or worrying about her next mortgage payment, Jessica Trujillo spends her days rallying friends and colleagues to lobby Washington for federal help to protect airline workers who feel their fate is caught in a political standoff.

After failing so far to convince Congress to approve another $ 25 billion bailout for coronavirus-stricken airlines, the industry is looking at a new deadline on Tuesday set by the president of the Democratic House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi for a COVID-19 relief deal with the Republican White House.

Airlines were hoping for legislation by September 30, when a first job protection package expired despite broad bipartisan support as Democrats and Republicans grappled with conflicting agendas and priorities before the November 3 elections.

“We are pawns,” said Trujillo, a Houston resident, one of at least 50,000 airline employees – with her husband Rene, a flight attendant – without pay.

United Airlines UAL.O and American Airlines AAL.O, two of the three major US carriers, have laid off 32,000 workers. At least 20,000 other employees from both companies took unpaid time off while watching the roller coaster negotiations in Washington which saw the prospects for increased aid rise and fall on a daily, if not hourly basis.

“We’re naked right now and the emotions both ways are really, really tough,” Trujillo said. She and her husband both chose unpaid leave from United to provide medical coverage after the loss of René’s brother, who had no health insurance, to coronavirus in September.

They are part of a politically diverse group of airline workers, from boarding agents to pilots who have spent the past three months bombarding lawmakers with phone calls, letters, emails, social media posts. and marches arguing for more airline payroll support either through a large COVID-19 relief deal or a stand-alone bill.

Last week, President Donald Trump was willing to increase his bid by $ 1.8 trillion for a COVID-19 relief deal with Democrats in the US Congress, but the idea was rejected by the majority leader in the United States. Senate, Mitch McConnell, another Republican, who plans a Senate vote on a $ 500 billion proposal Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Pelosi has stuck to his demand for a $ 2.2 trillion aid and stimulus package.

“I think I can speak for a lot of my colleagues when we say we’ve lost faith in our elected officials,” said Miami-based Phillip Delahunty, one of the 19,000 American Airlines employees on leave. “I have the impression that our livelihood and well-being are currently being used for political ends in this country.”

Congressional aides said on Monday that the odds of a stand-alone move to provide wage assistance to U.S. airlines ahead of the Nov. 3 election had diminished.

René Trujillo expressed a “tremendous level of disconnection” between American politicians and workers. “I honestly think we’re just playing a leveraging role in everyone’s game,” he said.

Trump is following his Democratic rival Joe Biden nationally and in battlefield states, according to a Reuters / Ipsos poll conducted October 9-13, less than a month before the election.

United and American have both vowed to bring back workers if lawmakers grant any help. “It’s like we’re in purgatory,” said Jennyne Trani, a single mother in Las Vegas who was fired by United and delayed her family and moved to a more affordable place while awaiting news from Washington. “Just tell us,” she said. “I have to understand my life.”

Reporting by Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Leslie Adler

Original © Thomson Reuters

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