Rep. Payne, Jr. Fights to Save 1,000 Jobs in Newark

May 5, 2021
Press Release

Media Contact:  Patrick Wright   --

Washington, D.C. — Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr. took two strong actions yesterday to keep 1,000 airline catering jobs in Newark.  The Congressman wrote a letter to Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, to stop the airline from outsourcing 2,500 catering jobs, including 1,000 jobs in Newark, after Congress gave the airline industry almost $23 billion in stimulus money to retain workers.  Then Rep. Payne, Jr. attended a virtual rally in the afternoon to support the workers and their union.        

“We gave United Airlines and the airline industry billions of dollars to keep workers when times were tough and now they want to fire them when the economy is improving,” said Rep. Donald M. Payne, Jr.  “The stimulus money was given to the airlines to save jobs during the pandemic.  They need to keep these workers in their catering business or they need to give back their stimulus money.”   

The letter was co-signed by 19 Members of Congress and asked Kirby to “adhere to the spirit of the Payroll Support Program, refrain from any job reductions,  and publicly state  that current United Airlines workers will keep their jobs, pay, benefits, and union representation in your inflight catering operations.  The move is even more disappointing given United announced it expects revenues to equal and exceed pre-pandemic levels in two years and planned to spend future profits on stock grants and cash retention bonuses for top executives.

The full letter is below.

May 4, 2021


Mr. Scott Kirby

Chief Executive Officer

United Airlines, Inc.

233 S. Wacker Drive

Chicago, IL 60606


Dear Mr. Kirby:

Given the financial support Congress has shown the airline industry during this pandemic, we were disappointed to learn that United Airlines could outsource more than 2,500 catering jobs in Newark, Cleveland, Denver, Houston and Honolulu.  Over the last 20 years, these workers, the majority of whom are minorities, have withstood layoffs, pay cuts and reductions to their hours to help your airline survive the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic struggles including  recessions, terrorist attacks, and financial crises.  Despite these challenges, they have shown incredible loyalty to your airline.  We request you reward that loyalty and show that United Airlines is committed to helping their workers recover from this pandemic.

United Airlines has received $7.7 billion from the U.S. government in Payroll Support Program grants in order to support its employees and stabilize jobs as the carrier weathers the COVID-19 crisis.[1] The American Rescue Plan included another $15 billion in payroll support grants to the airline industry.[2] Congress created this program to “preserve aviation jobs” by providing wage assistance to companies in exchange for keeping workers on the payroll. Program funds must be used exclusively to pay employee wages, salaries, and benefits.[3] To receive these funds, recipients must “refrain from conducting involuntary furloughs or reducing pay rates and benefits.”[4] Since the purpose of the program is to preserve jobs, we ask that you honor Congress’s intent and commit to retain United’s existing airline catering workers.

Additionally,  United has announced it will spend millions of dollars on stock grants and cash retention bonuses for top executives while it considers layoffs to its blue collar workforce.[5] United’s stock price has increased more than 35 percent year-to-date and  it tripled its pandemic low in March. .[6]  In addition, United has stated that it expects its profit margin to surpass 2019 levels by 2023.[7] Federal support for the aviation industry was intended to protect U.S. airline jobs during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, not be used for stock buybacks and executive bonuses.

We are strongly opposed to any plan that would outsource thousands of jobs when the industry is already projecting financial recovery. We  urge you to adhere to the spirit of the Payroll Support Program, refrain from any job reductions,  and publicly state  that current United Airlines workers will keep their jobs, pay, benefits, and union representation in your inflight catering operations.




Donald M. Payne, Jr.                                                              Albio Sires

Member of Congress                                                              Member of Congress





Eleanor Holmes Norton

Anthony Brown

Bill Pascrell, Jr.

Kai Kahele

Jamaal Bowman, Ed.D

Mark Pocan

Jared Huffman

Jason Crow

Pramila Jayapal

Ed Case

Diana DeGette

Sheila Jackson Lee

Ayanna Pressley

Stephen F. Lynch

Sylvia R. Garcia

Bonnie Watson Coleman

Mikie Sherrill

Barbara Lee





[2] American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Pub. L. No. 117-2, § 7301(b)(1).

[3] Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Emergency Security Act, Pub. L. No. 116-136, § 4112(a)(2020).

[4] Id. § 4114(a)(1).

[5] See,. e.g., United offers top execs millions in bonuses, Crain’s Chicago Business (March 2, 2021) (online:

[6] Google Market Summary (March 26, 2021) NASDAQ: UAL

[7] See, e.g., United Announces 2020 Financial Results: 2021 Will Focus On Transition To Recovery; Expects To Exceed 2019 Adjusted EBITDA Margin By 2023*, United (Jan. 20, 2021) (online: