America Airlines – Taxi drivers and airline employees compelled to brink of hunger as journey is at a standstill
Joseph Palma holds up his work uniform with pleasure and despair. He hasn’t put it on since he was laid off in March. He labored as a customer support agent for Eulen America, a contractor for American Airlines, aiding customs at Miami Worldwide Airport.
He’s certainly one of 123,300 airline employees out of a job since February. Amongst air, rail, and floor transport, greater than 1 / 4 million jobs have been misplaced, in response to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the restoration has been sluggish.
“There was a struggle because I used all my savings to pay my bills and pay the rent, pay my food and everything,” Palma stated of when he was first laid off.
Eulen declined to remark, apart from confirming Palma’s earlier employment.
The Biden administration is now confronted with an trade that’s at a standstill. On Thursday, Secretary of Transportation nominee Pete Buttigieg stated the division would play a key position in constructing again the economic system.
“The Division of Transportation can play a central position on this, by implementing President Biden’s infrastructure imaginative and prescient creating thousands and thousands of good-paying jobs,” Buttigieg instructed legislators in his committee listening to.
Within the newest stimulus invoice handed by Congress through the Trump administration, $15 billion in payroll safety was allotted for US-based airways with the caveat that 32,000 airline staff are introduced again to work by the tip of March. However as a contractor for American Airlines, Palma was not re-hired.
Since then, he misplaced his house as a result of he can’t afford the $1,125 month-to-month hire. He survives off meals stamps and receives $275 per week in unemployment, which is simply sufficient to cowl the hire for a room in a home. He says he’s counting each penny and retailers within the expired meals isle on the grocery retailer.
“That’s the only way I can eat. It’s cheaper, is almost half the price, sometimes more than that,” stated Palma, who immigrated from Nicaragua 30 years in the past. “I keep it for the longest I can keep it so I can wait for my next check for the food stamps.”
Palma has no automotive, which makes getting meals and in search of work tougher.
“I can’t even go it to the food banks because I have no car. Every time I’d go looking for a job, I’ll have to walk so many miles,” stated Palma. “Sometimes I can’t even use public transportation. I need the money. I need every penny I can save.”
And the payments hold coming. Palma has bronchial asthma and a coronary heart situation which left him with a $12,000 hospital invoice. His present treatment runs him about $300 a month, and he has pupil loans — placing him virtually $20,000 in debt.
“It’s too much money and it’s hard for me. It’s going to take me years to get rid of the bill — years,” he stated.
Simply this week, Palma obtained a letter from his former employer, Eulen America, inviting him again for an interview in a brand new place. Nonetheless, the letter states the place is “part time and hours are not guaranteed.”
Taxi drivers hurting, too
For 21 years, Gerson Fernandes has pushed a New York Metropolis yellow cab. He owns a taxi medallion, or a small plate with an identification quantity affixed to the hood of his cab, which permits him to function as in impartial enterprise and driver. He purchased his in 2003 for $245,000, and continues to be paying it off month-to-month. However because the pandemic started he can not afford the $3,000-a-month fee.
Even earlier than Covid-19 swept the world, conventional taxi drivers had been struggling in New York Metropolis. At one level the price of taxi medallions topped over $1 million, however that collapsed as drivers for ridehailing companies like Uber and Lyft flooded the market. In 2018, 9 taxi drivers, confronted with the debt that they had taken on simply to afford a medallion, dedicated suicide.
After which the pandemic hit.
On the top of the pandemic, ridership dropped by 90% for yellow cabs and 85% for ride-share apps, in response to the New York Taxi Staff Alliance, which analyzed New York Taxi and Limousine Fee ridership information.
“We’ve lost a lot of customers,” stated Fernandes, initially from Bombay, India. “I feel sad that such a robust industry has been spoiled or really like gone to the ground and it’s not right.”
The yellow cab is synonymous with New York Metropolis. Fernandes used to work 12-hour shifts selecting up dozens of consumers. At present, he says he’s fortunate to get 4 or 5. He spends his 8-hour shifts ready for purchasers at LaGuardia airport.
“These days you can afford to purchase a house and pay the mortgages or pay are all the cash, however now it’s too dangerous — it’s troublesome to pay,” stated Fernandes.
He says he obtained unemployment advantages beneath the Pandemic Unemployment Help program for a number of months when New York Metropolis shut down, however stopped amassing as soon as he returned to work.
Fernandes says he’s seen a slight uptick in prospects because the top of the pandemic, however not sufficient to make him complete. He’s hoping New York Metropolis’s Mayor Invoice De Blasio will institute a hire forgiveness on his taxi medallion lease. He already owes greater than $10,000 — cash he doesn’t have.
“I try my best, but like, how much can you try?” stated Fernandes. “What can you do? [I have] very limited resources.”
Correction: An earlier model of this story incorrectly spelled Gerson Fernandes’ first identify.