As it turns out, Congress wasn’t careless; it actually chose to cut out language from the CARES Act that would have prohibited airlines from slashing worker’s pay by reducing hours.
Last week, I defended the right of airlines to cut employee hours. Not because I think it is a good thing, but because that is what the language of the bill allowed (or did not disallow). You can review that discussion here.
I concluded by asserting:
I am not moved by arguments that Congress meant to [prohibit reductions in hours]. If it meant to do something, it should have paid attention to detail and ensured that its statutory language was clear. Congress failed.
As it turns out, that protective language was in the House version of the bill…but it did not make it past reconciliation.
As reported by Sam Mintz at Politico, the original language of the House bill explicitly prohibited airlines from reducing pay:
[P]rovide employees with a guaranteed wage for every workweek that provides each employee continued payments in the amount of 100 percent of the employee’s full wages and for the employee’ total expected hours per workweek in the event that the employee is terminated, furloughed, experiences a reduction in work hours, or otherwise suffers any loss of such wages during such period;
So what happened to it?
I’m investigating, but still wanted to bring the issue to the surface now.
As View from the Wing noted, had airlines been transparent about the changes they would make after receiving the money it never would have passed.
American Airlines’ CEO Doug Parker, who was in the room for the conversation, attacked United and JetBlue for cutting hours and said:
“I was there when we were working on CARES and that wasn’t the intent or meaning of it.”
That may be the case…but substituting the House language for the watered-down Senate language could only have two culprits: Congressional Republicans giving a nod and wink to the airlines or airline lobbyists themselves, who were present in the room as the bill was hashed out. I intend to find out exactly what happened.
I noted bipartisan Congressional outrage over airlines cutting hours. This revelation makes such outrage misplaced. Even more radical pro-consumer advocates like Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) or Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) did not fight this provision publicly and voted for the final bill. Congress may have only itself to blame, but airlines should be shamed for selling a public version of the bill and yet secretly negotiating a totally different bill.