Airline employees fear for mass furloughs as relief bill expiration looms

Washington DC Bureau

WASHINGTON D.C. (WCMH) — In less than three weeks, the airline industry says it will be forced to furlough thousands of employees unless Congress takes action.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, says she worries that time could soon run out for many of her fellow flight attendants.

“October 1st there will be mass furloughs,” Nelson said. “The goal is to bring Congress to an understanding that they have got to get a relief bill passed.”

Airline workers want a bill to extend the payroll support program created in March as part of the CARES Act, which gave more than $30 billion to the airline industry to keep employees on the job. It expires September 30.

“Our economy can’t afford massive layoffs,” said Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown.

Brown fears if Congress fails to act, the country could see another wave of furloughs and layoffs.

“Then we’re almost back to square one in dealing with coronavirus,” he said.

Illinois Democratic Representative Brad Schneider represents a district close to the Chicago headquarters of United Airlines. He says he supports a payroll support program extension.

“This program has protected hundreds of thousands of jobs and kept an industry viable,” Schneider said.

But an extension seems unlikely to happen. Before its defeat in the Senate on Thursday, the GOP’s so-called “targeted” relief bill contained no money for a PSP extension or the airlines.

But nelson is optimistic.

“I’m a union president,” she said. “I know that deals can come together in the matter of an hour when parties want to reach an agreement.”

Last month, a White House official said President Trump is open to an executive order to help airlines keep employees on the job.

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