Letter to Elaine Chao, Secretary of the Department of Labor, Re: National Emergency Grant Funds for Former Airline Employees

Durbin, Obama, Carson Ask for National Emergency Grant Funds for Former Airline Employees

U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) and Representative Andre Carson (D-IN) today sent a letter to the Secretary of the Department of Labor, Elaine Chao, asking for the release of National Emergency Grant funds to assist over 1,200 flight attendants and former employees of Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines who recently lost their jobs of as a result of the abrupt termination in service. The members noted that it will be difficult for these working Americans to find new jobs as the airline industry continues to shrink.

"I am concerned that this troubled airline industry, which is facing massive layoffs and service shutdowns, will not be able to absorb the hard-working flight attendants and airline personnel that have lost their jobs," said Durbin. "We have come together on a bipartisan basis to see that the 1,200 workers - over 850 in Illinois - and their families have access to the resources they need to start again."

"With recent mass layoffs at ATA and Aloha Airlines, over a thousand workers are now without jobs," said Obama. "These airlines collapsed in the face of skyrocketing fuel prices, a consolidating aviation industry, and a declining economy. I join Senator Durbin and Congressman Carson in calling on Secretary Chao to provide these workers with targeted assistance and emergency training grants. Families in Chicago, Indianapolis, and Honolulu need to know that their government is there when this kind of crisis hits, and I am committed to helping these families get the help they need."

"It is increasingly important that the U.S. Department of Labor act with the utmost urgency in bestowing adequate aid and immediate assistance to the recently displaced workers of ATA and Aloha Airlines," said Carson.

Other signatories on today's letter include Senators Even Bayh (D-IN), Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Representatives Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), George Miller (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Pete Visclosky (D-IL), Danny Davis (D-IL), Brad Ellsworth (D-IN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Robert Andrews (D-NJ).

Text of the letter appears below:

April 25, 2008

The Honorable Elaine L. Chao
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20210

Dear Secretary Chao:

The termination of operations of Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines has resulted in the abrupt dislocation of over 1,200 flight attendants and other personnel, including customer service agents. Given the current state of the aviation industry, it will be difficult for these working Americans to find new jobs in the shrinking US airline industry. In the past, many dislocated or furloughed flight attendants found jobs with other carriers, but the job market in aviation today is poor.

The Aloha and ATA flight attendants who are now unemployed had served more than 10 years on average in their specialized fields. The length of service with their company means that the vast majority of these flight attendants have not participated in the job market for more than a decade.

A successful transition to a new career requires targeted dislocated worker intervention services. For these particular workers, and especially the flight attendants, whose unemployment follows years of wage and work rule concessions during bankruptcy for their carrier, we urge you to consider releasing National Emergency Grant funds to address their specific re-training needs.

We urge you to quickly evaluate whether the termination of operations of Aloha Airlines and ATA Airlines qualify as eligible events for National Emergency Grant (NEG) funding, and if so identify these flight attendants as a target population eligible for specialized assistance. If the flight attendants qualify, we further request that you issue a special guidance letter to all states and local workforce investment boards to announce the immediate availability of NEG funds and to encourage the development of expanded dislocated intervention services for these flight attendants. If they do not qualify, we request an explanation and alternative services that the Department can make available to them.

We ask that you make this determination as quickly as possible and notify us as soon as that decision is made.

Dick Durbin
U.S. Senator

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