On a day in which over 32,000 airline workers in the United States will lose their jobs, I want to take a moment to focus on the 13,000 employees who now face furloughs or separation from United Airlines.
Why focus on United when American Airlines is laying off over 19,000? Well, because United is the airline I fly most often and because I know so many workers personally who will be laid off today. To call them “family” might be a stretch, but there’s a particular pain for these job losses.
What United Airlines Told Employees About Furloughs
Here’s what United shared with employees last night concerning today’s furloughs:
Today is a very sad day for all of us here at United.
As you know, Congress has been negotiating another stimulus bill to address the economic impact of COVID-19 and there is strong bipartisan support. But despite a chorus of voices advocating for an extension of the CARES Act Payroll Support Program – a coalition that included industry groups, other airlines, our union partners, senior leadership at United and many of you – Congress has still not taken action.
The CARES Act Payroll Support Program funding for our airline expires today, September 30. That means after months of aggressive cost-cutting and proactive debt-raising actions to manage the company through the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on our business, we regrettably are forced to move forward with the process of involuntarily furloughing about 13,000 of our United team members.
And while sadly, involuntary furloughs begin today, we haven’t given up.
In a continuing effort to give the federal government every opportunity to act, we have made clear to leadership in the Administration, Congress and among our union partners that we can and will reverse the furlough process if the CARES Act Payroll Support Program is extended in the next few days. We implore our elected leaders to reach a compromise, get a deal done now, and save jobs.
As you know, we started the involuntary furlough process earlier this summer when we issued WARN notices to 36,000 of our employees. We later decreased that figure by more than half to about 16,000 United employees who would be notified of an involuntary furlough effective as early as October 1. And since then, we’ve also worked to further reduce the total number of furloughs by working closely with our union partners, introducing new voluntary options, and proposing creative solutions that would save jobs.
The pandemic has devastated travel demand, from international restrictions to domestic quarantines to overall weakness in customer bookings. But throughout – and in spite of – the challenges of the past eight months, all of our employees have demonstrated how much they care about each other and our customers. To our departing 13,000 family members: thank you for your dedication and we look forward to welcoming you back.
United CEO Scott Kirby also recorded a video to employees expressing similar sentiment and hope that he could soon welcome back all employees to full-time service.
It isn’t clear why Congress and the White House could not come together on a last-minute aid package when there does seem to be broad bipartisan support for it. It is also true that should Congress pass a package this week or next that is signed by the President, these workers could quickly be called back into service.
Hang Tough Dear Ones
I cannot help but to think of the trite but true cliche of Dr. Robert H. Schuller, “Tough times don’t last, but tough people do!”
This is a time for introspection, a time for sadness, but also a time for turning over new leaves. For some, this will be an opportunity to branch out and try something new and different that will lead to great personal growth. May you never look back. For others, especially those who loved their work and had no desire to leave, this will be a difficult season.
But despite all the encumbrances that ensnare the human race, human beings demonstrate a remarkable resiliency. Please don’t despair. I know what it is like to lose your livelihood. You are so much more than your career.
And to the rest of my readers. Let’s understand that for every one of the 13,000 at United or 32,000 across the industry, there is a human being with a story. Let’s start this month off with a little more empathy and a little less snark.