Today, amid growing concern about corporate stock buybacks in the wake of the Republican tax bill, Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) led thirty-one members of Congress in sending a letter to American Airlines CEO Doug Parker calling on the company to invest in its workforce. Despite promises that tax windfalls would be used to raise wages and create jobs, American Airlines recently authorized $2 billion in stock buybacks over the next two years.
These buybacks come as more than 9,500 passenger service agents at American Airlines subsidiaries Envoy Air and Piedmont Airlines are in protracted contract negotiations with the company to address their poverty level wages. Agents at Envoy are paid as little as $9.48 an hour, while those at Piedmont start at just $8.50 an hour, leaving many unable to afford basic necessities.
In their letter, members of Congress call on American Airlines to commit to a living wage for passenger service agents when the company returns to the bargaining table this week.
“During the debate over the recently-enacted tax law, proponents promised that lowering the overall corporate tax rate would result in raises for employees,” the letter states. “[I]nstead of seeing increases in take-home pay, we have seen a wave of announcements by corporations that they intend to use their projected profits for stock buybacks.” The letter urges American to “make substantial progress in the next round of bargaining over the Envoy and Piedmont contracts so that passenger service agents – not just shareholders and corporate executives – benefit from increased profitability levels.”
Today’s letter is a follow-up to a letter to Parker sent by Rep. Schakowsky and 81 other members of Congress earlier this year which expressed similar concerns.
“American Airlines and other big corporations have broken their tax bill promises to invest in workers and create good jobs,” said Richard Honeycutt, Vice President of Communications Workers of America District 3 and Chair of CWA’s Passenger Service Airline Council. “While American stonewalls Envoy and Piedmont workers over wages at the bargaining table, the company is planning to spend billions on buybacks to line the pockets of shareholders and executives. Working families refuse to be left behind – and we’re standing together with these elected leaders to say enough is enough.”
The letter comes as American Airlines considers passing on fuel price increases to customers, adding to concerns that the company is enriching executives and shareholders at the expense of employees and consumers.
The letter and a full list of signatories can be found here: June 19 Letter to Doug Parker