Major aviation labor unions call on airlines to refrain from stock buybacks

A number of labor unions in the airline industry are urging airlines not to resume the practice of stock buybacks.

In a press release, the unions demanded carriers pledge to refrain from stock buybacks until the airlines have fixed operational issues, invest in their employees and contract negotiations have wrapped up.

There has been a pause on airlines buying back shares of their stock as part of the federal coronavirus relief aid the carriers received. That moratorium is set to lift Sept. 30.

American Airlines passenger jets prepare for departure July 21, 2021, at Boston Logan International Airport in Boston. (AP Photo / Steven Senne, File / AP Newsroom)

Major carriers have spent billions buying back shares of their stocks over the years. According to Reuters, American Airlines spent over $ 12 billion between 2014 and 2019 repurchasing stock.

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“We paused the greed in aviation for a little while with legislative constraints tied to COVID relief,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said in the unions’ press release. “But the greed that ran rampant before COVID created a system that was already stretched thin with minimum staffing and high overtime hours.

“We can’t allow executives to send one dime to Wall Street before they fix operational issues and conclude contract negotiations that will ensure pay and benefits keep and attract people to aviation jobs.”

Delta Airlines

Flight attendants hand out refreshments to a packed Delta Airlines flight traveling from Ronald Reagan National Airport to Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport May 21, 2021. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images / Getty Images)

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In addition to the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, unions involved in the campaign include the Air Line Pilots Association Int’l, Association of Professional Flight Attendants, Communications Workers of America, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Transport Workers Union of America and Service Employees International Union.

They collectively represent hundreds of thousands of workers across various aspects of the aviation industry.

Major carriers have continued to be plagued by flight disruptions this summer due to staffing shortages as well as passenger demand reaching pre-pandemic levels. They have taken steps such as boosting hiring and training to address the issues.

Ticker Security Last Change Change%
LUV SOUTHWEST AIRLINES CO. 37.88 -1.10 -2.82%
AAL AMERICAN AIRLINES GROUP INC. 14.17 -0.67 -4.51%
FROM THE DELTA AIR LINES INC. 33.25 -1.24 -3.60%
UAL UNITED AIRLINES HOLDINGS INC. 37.50 -1.56 -3.99%
ALK ALASKA AIR GROUP INC. 45.45 -1.24 -2.66%
JBLU JETBLUE AIRWAYS CORP. 8.38 -0.32 -3.68%

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In response to an inquiry from Fox Business, Southwest Airlines said of the union campaign, “nothing from us on this one for now.” As for the stock buyback, the company said they “have not announced any plans along these lines.”

Delta, American, United, Alaska Air and JetBlue did not immediately respond to FOX Business’ request for comment.

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