MIAMI (CBSMiami) — One day before laid off American Airlines employees will hit the unemployment line, union leaders protested at Miami International Airport. They passed out flyers to passengers warning them about the cuts to its labor force.
Last month, American Airlines sent out about 1,500 pink slips to employees angering airline union leaders.
“It’s like you poured your life and your soul into something for a long time and after all those years they acted like you did nothing, like you were a nobody,” said a laid off cargo agent who didn’t want to be identified.
According to American Airlines, about 300 people accepted buyouts or early retirement packages as of Thursday afternoon. About another 100 will be involuntarily laid off in Miami.
American Airlines Spokeswoman Martha Pantin said its a necessary evil to save 9,000 jobs.
“Unfortunately it’s a very difficult process for American and for all of us as employees,” said Pantin. “But it is a necessary step that needs to be taken to preserve the jobs of a bigger amount of people and its also a necessary step that needs to be taken for the future of American Airlines to be competitive.”
Union leaders said their top concern is that vital duties such as maintenance, international security and baggage handling will be outsourced to minimum-wage contractors that have no vested interest in American Airlines.
They said workers at these poverty-wage jobs will be unable to keep up with mortgage payments or spend money in the community.
Following the mid-September layoffs notice, passengers were quick to express their unhappiness to CBS4.
“They started going up on ticket prices, bags and what have you so they should be able to find the money to keep people employed,” passenger Felix Murray told CBS4′s Natalia Zea.
Passenger Scarlet Gonzalez said she was worried the cuts could mean even longer lines at the airport.
“It’s gonna take you twice as long to get to where you need to be,” Gonzalez told CBS4.
The possible “furloughs” are slated to begin by the middle of November and end in mid-December.
American Airlines defended the layoff decision.
“Through restructuring, American Airlines has worked to lower our costs through sustainable, structural changes. Unfortunately, it was clear from the beginning that this would involve job loss. While any job loss is difficult, we now expect the need to furlough only about one-third of our original estimate as a result of these efforts and other progress on our restructuring plans,” American Airlines spokesman Bruce Hicks told CBS4 in a statement on Sep. 19.
American employs about 9,000 workers in South Florida and the hub at Miami International Airport is believed to be the 2nd largest for the company nationwide.