AFA-CWA Presses Fight for Bankruptcy Reform

john john

Sep 12, 2004
AFA-CWA Presses Fight for Bankruptcy Reform
AFA-CWA testified before a congressional committee on Sept. 6 as part of a continuing campaign calling for reform of the nation's bankruptcy laws.

"Many AFA-CWA flight attendants, as well as other airline workers, have had their lives destroyed by corporate bankruptcies and by management's use of the law to force devastating cuts on employees," said Master Executive Council President Greg Davidowitch, representing AFA-CWA at a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law.

"Something must be done to level the playing field so that bankruptcy is no longer a 'business strategy' that simply transfers money to executives' pockets and leaves the employees with nothing more than slashed pay, diminished health care, destroyed retirement security, bitterness, mounting debs and the prospect of personal bankruptcy."

The union is working closely with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), chair of the House Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Senate majority whip, to develop bankruptcy reform legislation that is more favorable to workers and their families.

Filing for bankruptcy protection allows corporations to tear up and force renegotiation of union contracts, slashing pay, benefit and pension costs to become more attractive to potential investors. Executives are routinely rewarded with massive bonuses and compensation packages for taking such actions, which lead to new infusions of capital, allowing companies to exit bankruptcy at the expense of the workers.

The pattern has become a trend since 2001, with over 20 airlines filing. The most recent rounds of bankruptcies have been accompanied by a dramatic slashing of jobs as well. ATA Airlines cut over 1,000 flight attendant positions and Mesaba Airlines reduced their ranks by almost half. Aloaha Airlines had a 12 percent reduction in the flight attendant workforce. US Airways saw over 3,000 slashed. United suffered the largest blow when over 12,000 flight attendants' careers were put on hold.

AFA-CWA President Pat Friend and Antoinette Muoneke, an AFA-CWA member and United Flight attendant, testified before Congress earlier this year.

Mouneke said because of job and benefit cuts, her hours away from home increased by 40 percent, yet she still could not afford to pay higher health care premiums. And even with the new retirement system AFA-CWA won when United froze her old one, Mouneke said she lost over 30 percent of her pension benefit.

"To add insult to injury, management then shops for potential investors, using employees' reduced standard of living as a selling point," Friend said.

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