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A Bonus for Airline Employees

Months before September 11, airlines were asking employee groups to make wage and benefit concessions to help "save" the faltering companies. After September 11, things only got worse. Tens of thousands of airline employees have faced layoffs, outright job loss, or the insecurity of knowing that their jobs are not secure. Airline executives, desperate to avoid bankruptcy, have asked employees to take cuts in benefits and pay to help "save" the companies-and of course, their jobs. No company, no job. While some of the executives offered to forego their salaries, they didn't mention that they would retain their bonuses and stock options. Some employees agreed with the plan to make concessions, while others pointed out that similar compromises made previously by employees of Braniff, PanAm, TWA and Eastern did not save those employees' jobs. Nevertheless, concessions were made by those who had not already lost their jobs. There really was no choice.

The Nitty-Gritty from the Top
In a hearing before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Mr. Edward Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, stated the problem this way:

"Aviation industry workers, including employees of airlines, Boeing and aerospace suppliers, and airports, have suffered unprecedented job loss and economic uncertainty. Some 100,000 airline employees are out of work or facing imminent lay-off. Another 30,000 Boeing workers are laid-off along with 51,000 additional aerospace employees. But it is the multiplier effect of airline lay-offs that is most startling. Airline industry data show a combined workforce exceeding 600,000. However, the total workforce, if related job sectors such as airports, aircraft manufacturing and suppliers are included, totals 10.9 million. In other words, one airline worker translates into 18 additional jobs in our economy. And with bankruptcies looming large, it is easy to conclude that the staggering job losses will only grow."

While the airlines themselves received huge bailouts from the federal government after 9/11, Congress seemed unconcerned about the fate of the tens of thousands of airline workers Wytkind mentioned.

Many people who flew without a care before 9/11 are now hesitant to board a plane at all. While the need for airport safety is obvious, new security requirements have made the airport hassle three times the ordeal that it was previously. Skyrocketing fuel prices have translated to higher costs for airlines and higher passenger fares. This means fewer passengers, fewer planes, and fewer jobs in the airline industry, with employees paying the biggest price.

In June of 2005, US Airways terminated its pension plan. Shortly thereafterUnited Airlines went to bankruptcy court, and its petition to eliminate its pension plan was approved by a Chicago bankruptcy judge in May of 2005. That wiped out $9.8 billion in future benefits United Airlines had promised its employees. Since then, American, Delta and Northwest have all fallen into financial trouble, causing more layoffs.

Employees all over the US have long been reassured by these words: "If anything happens to the company, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) will pay your pension. It's like pension insurance. We pay into it for you." It sounded like a foolproof plan to laid-off airline workers, as it would to most of us, until they found out that the PBGC is underfunded and does not pay retirees their full pension amounts. Once again, though, airline executives receive everything they were promised.

Couldn't they have worked somewhere else? After all, the unemployment rate is low. Jobs are plentiful. Right? Not exactly. The US Department of Labor reports that 7 of the 10 jobs expected to grow most rapidly until 2012 pay less than $13.25 an hour-some much less. The 7 top fields are retail sales clerk, customer service representative, food service worker, cashier, janitor, nurse's aide, and hospital orderly. For comparison, look at the example of an airline mechanic. In Indianapolis, where mechanics checked hundreds of planes for safety, mechanics averaged $31 an hour. Family men in their 30s and 40s, they bought houses and cars and other things in line with that salary. While they were sent for "re-education and training" so that they could re-enter the workplace, they found that the new jobs they were offered were far below their skill levels and far below the wages they needed to pay their bills. They were concerned that they would have to file for personal bankruptcy-but with no federal bailout to save them. Many laid-off airline employees take lower-paying jobs simply for the health insurance, hoping somehow to hold on to their houses and cars and to hold off the credit card companies until things improve.

Suppose you are still employed by an airline, but your paycheck and benefits have shrunk, or you're a retiree who got the "PBGC shock." Did your mortgage shrink? Your car payment? Your insurance or phone or grocery bill? Of course not. You are left to make up the shortfall.

In the title of this article, we mentioned a bonus for airline employees. That means former airline employees, too. Whether you're still flying the not-so-friendly skies, working at a low-wage job, or trying to figure out how to survive on your reduced pension, there is an easy way to make up the deficit in your budget. You can do it wherever you are, whenever you want. You will be in control of how much you work and how much you make. Many call it a home business, but the truth is that you can carry on business from your hotel room, at the airport, on your lunch break, or at home with your family.

All you need is a computer and a phone. It's an answer that has eased the minds of hundreds of people in situations like yours.

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