After months of delays and false promises, Congress has finally agreed to another round of much-needed COVID economic relief. Although votes are still pending in the House and Senate, the stimulus package has benefits for both airline and rail employees, as well as important funding for distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, assistance to small businesses and additional stimulus checks for individuals who qualify.
“The IAM leadership, membership and legislative team have been working tirelessly with other AFL-CIO unions since last May to secure additional relief for our air and rail members,” said IAM General Vice President Sito Pantoja. “Thousands of IAM member emails, phone calls and video meetings with Senators and House members across the country made sure the transportation industry was not forgotten in this round of economic relief.”
The new stimulus package includes extended and enhanced unemployment benefits for railroad employees, plus an extension of waiver of the 7-day waiting period. Amtrak is restricted from furloughing additional employees. The passenger rail carrier is also required to recall workers to their former position when rail service is restored and prevents Amtrak from contracting out the work of furloughed employees.
Important for airline workers is securing an extension to the critical airline Payroll Support Program (PSP) until March 31, 2021. This extension prohibits any airline accepting additional PSP funds from involuntarily furloughing employees for the duration of the program.
The program extension also requires participating airlines to recall the tens of thousand of airline employees furloughed following the expiration of the original PSP program on September 30, 2020. The legislation mandates that any carrier receiving the additional payroll assistance send a recall notice to all involuntarily furloughed employees.
“We wish this could have been completed before any airline workers were furloughed, but the current dysfunctional Congress made that impossible,” said Pantoja. “The Machinists Union hopes that when the new Congress begins work it will continue taking steps to help working families and our entire country recover from COVID’s wake of destruction.”
Congress also extended the limit on executive compensation and share buyback restrictions that were in the CARES Act.