Congress of the United States, Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin. U.S. Department of Treasury.

 

 

The Honorable Steven T. Mnuchin
U.S. Department of the Treasury
1500 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20220

Dear Secretary Mnuchin,
We write you today with grave concern and broad opposition to your recent statements regarding
carriers’ compliance with the terms set out in Subtitle B of Title IV of the Coronavirus Aid,
Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136). As you are aware, Congress’ intent
when it included Air Carrier Worker Support provisions was to prevent airline workers from
suffering the immediate negative economic effects of a virus they had no ability to prevent.
Reducing hours while “maintaining rate of pay” goes directly against this goal and places these
airlines out of compliance with the CARES Act.

United, Delta, and JetBlue airlines have all unilaterally cut workers hours – in some cases
significantly decreasing these employees’ pay and benefits. The creative position held by these
airlines is that an hours cut is somehow unrelated to compensation, which is protected under the
CARES Act. The hour cuts imposed by these carriers have made some workers eligible for
unemployment assistance – a circumstance the legislation was explicitly designed to prevent.
These carriers are very clearly out of compliance with the letter and spirit of the law.
A faithful execution of the CARES Act requires the Treasury to cite these cuts as violating
federal law. Anything less than direct and immediate enforcement action from your department
is a failure for the American people. Permitting this type of interpretive acrobatics will erode
public trust in our federal relief efforts and further subject taxpayer dollars to suspicion that relief
funds were used to pad the pockets of shareholders at workers’ and taxpayers’ expense. While
the law may allow for negotiated hours reductions, made in concert with the workforce and
presumably in exchange for some other benefit of equal value to the workers, it very clearly
reserves the decision of accepting such a cut to the workers and not the companies.

We are also deeply concerned that the Treasury has failed to act in accordance with its statutory
mandate under the CARES Act to deliver payroll assistance to the most vulnerable aviation
workers. Earlier this month, 350 workers at Miami Air lost their jobs because the Treasury chose
not to provide program assistance to the carrier as it worked through a bankruptcy proceeding
caused by the pandemic. Company executives were directly in touch with the Treasury to secure
payroll assistance, to no avail. Treasury has thus far failed to explain why it denied their workers
their paychecks when it was within their authority to do.
The financial outlook is dire for the airline industry, which is why Congress supported U.S.
commercial aviation in recent relief packages. However, our intent has always been to protect
airline workers (as the title of this section of the CARES Act makes clear), not corporate salaries
or shareholders. The need for protections like these has been made clear over the past several
years as the commercial aviation industry spent record profits on stock buybacks, which
overwhelmingly benefit institutional investors and individuals with stock options. Meaningful
efforts to build financial reserves or return workers’ pay and benefits to pre-recession levels were
not made, and airlines are now telling their workforce, with complicity from the Treasury, “draw
down your rainy-day fund.”

Many carriers have entered into voluntary agreements with workers to take leave or reduce their
hours. In your role overseeing commercial aviation assistance as part of CARES Act, you should
be doing everything you can to promote this sort of outcome, while discouraging actions like
those taken by United Airlines and others.
Moving forward we respectfully request the following actions:
1. Release guidance clarifying that top-down, unilateral decisions to reduce hours, and as a
result reducing pay and benefits, are prohibited under CARES Act.
2. Comply with all Congressional oversight requests, particularly those related to
Treasury’s Payroll Support Program Agreements.
3. Provide Congress with a detailed plan with respect to your own vigorous oversight of
Payroll Support Program Agreement, in particular your plan for remedies in the cases of
non-compliance.
4. Please disclose whether you or any other Treasury officials provided carriers with
guidance that cutting worker hours would be allowable under the terms of the CARES
Act. If so, which carriers did you and your team consult with and what guidance did you
provide?
Please respond, electronically, no later than June 5th. Thank you for your time and consideration
during these difficult times.
Sincerely,

JAN SCHAKOWSKY
Member of Congress
_________ ________________ _______________________________
JESUS “CHUY” GARCIA KATIE PORTER
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Additional Signatories
Nanette Diaz Barrgán
Joyce Beatty
Brendan F. Boyle
Salud Carbajal
Judy Chu
David N. Cicilline
Gilbert R. Cisneros, Jr.
Steven Cohen
Gerald E. Connolly
J. Luis Correa
TJ Cox
Charlie Crist
Danny K. Davis
Suzan K. DelBene
Debbie Dingell
Lloyd Doggett
Mike Doyle
Anna G. Eshoo
Bill Foster
Jimmy Gomez
Al Green
Raúl M. Grijalva
Alcee L. Hastings
Brian Higgins
Jared Huffman
Pramila Jayapal
Marcy Kaptur
Joseph P. Kennedy, III
Ro Khanna
Andy Kim
Raja Krishnamoorthi
Ann McLane Kuster
Barbara Lee
Sheila Jackson Lee
Andy Levin
Alan Lowenthal
Ben Ray Luján
Stephen F. Lynch
Doris Matsui
Betty McCollum
James P. McGovern
Grace F. Napolitano
Joe Neguse
Donald Norcross
Eleanor Holmes Norton
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Ilhan Omar
Frank Pallone, Jr.
Bill Pascrell, Jr.
Donald M. Payne, Jr.
Mark Pocan
Mike Quigley
Ayanna Pressley
Jamie Raskin
Max Rose
Lucille Roybal-Allard
Bobby L. Rush
Tim Ryan
Albio Sires
Adam Smith
Jackie Speier
Thomas R. Suozzi
Eric Swalwell
Rashida Tlaib
Norma J. Torres
Lori Trahan
David Trone
Lauren Underwood
Juan Vargas
Bonnie Watson Coleman
Susan Wild
CC: Donald J. Trump
President of the United States

Updated: May 27, 2020 — 1:26 pm