UTU to Congress: 'End air-employee abuse'

October 5, 2010

Airline pilots who sleep in the terminal because lodging is not provided?

Flight attendants who can’t afford dental care and have used Super Glue to mend a broken tooth?

Pilots and flight attendants who qualify for food-stamps?

For airline pilots and flight attendants employed by many small regional airlines, that’s the professional life they lead — hardly the glamour that many Americans associate with airline employment.

The United Transportation Union, which represents some of these workers, will be asking the new Congress in 2011 to pass legislation requiring air carriers who participate in the Federal Essential Air Service Program to pay a livable wage to their employees.

Essential Air Service is a program that subsidizes carriers who provide service to mostly rural destinations that would have little or no air service without the program. The communities that benefit from the service are, for the most part, located in areas with limited transportation options and rely on the program as a vital connection to the larger transportation network.

“Employees of Essential Air Service carriers — air carriers that receive millions of dollars in federal subsidies to serve rural areas — are professionals responsible for the safe transport of their passengers,” said United Transportation Union International President Mike Futhey. “While these employees are subject to the rules and regulations applying to all commercial pilots and flight attendants, Essential Air Service pilots and flight attendants receive compensation that is oftentimes barely above the minimum wage.

“In many cases, the crews are paid an average ‘credit time’ for their flights, meaning if they run over because of weather or terminal delays, they are not compensated for prep time, de-icing time, taxi time or even some of the flight time,” Futhey said. “Yet, some of these airlines are controlled by millionaires who pocket the taxpayer supplied federal subsidies while their employees suffer living standards equivalent to those on food stamps.”

UTU National Legislative Director James Stem said, “The United Transportation Union will collaborate in solidarity with other labor organizations to end the Essential Air Carrier abuse of this taxpayer-funded program and Essential Air Carrier employees.”