WASHINGTON D.C.: Some two dozen members of the U.S. Congress are demanding that airlines stop outsourcing jobs if they want to be eligible for a third round of federal payroll aid, following news that United Airlines has sought bids to outsource catering work at five airports.
U.S. lawmakers also made the request to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, according to letters released by Unite Here, the union representing more than 2,500 workers, whose jobs are at risk under United's proposal.
In two COVID-19 relief programs to help the airline industry weather the pandemic and protect jobs, Chicago-based United received $7.7 billion. It stands to receive another $2.8 billion under a third package, to run through September 30.
Union members and the lawmakers who signed the letters say United's proposal -- which would impact workers in Newark, New Jersey; Cleveland, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; and Honolulu, Hawaii -- violates the spirit of the aid.
"We respectfully request that any new PSP payments to United Airlines and other carriers make clear that any outsourcing of jobs while receiving PSP payments would violate the terms of the program," seven senators wrote in a May 4 letter to Yellen, who has authority over the terms of the aid.
United spokeswoman Leigh Schramm said the company has not yet made any decisions to move forward with a third-party vendor for its inflight catering services, after seeking proposals in January.
"Given the unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on our business, United continues to explore ways to do things differently and become more efficient wherever we can," she said, adding that the outsourcing proposal is "part of that effort."