Protesting the German company’s efforts to depress wages, PILOTS WHO FLY FOR DHL CALL ON PRESIDENT TRUMP TO STAND WITH U.S. PILOTS


April 5, 2017

Desmond Lee, (646) 517-1826,

(WASHINGTON) – U.S. cargo pilots who fly for DHL are protesting outside the White House Wednesday, saying the German shipping giant is driving down standards in pay, working conditions and quality of life for pilots in America. The pilots – represented by the Airline Professionals Association, Teamsters Local 1224 – are from five U.S.-based airlines that are responsible for 70 percent of DHL’s global flying and are calling on the president to join them in standing up to the foreign company. In an open letter they sent to the president Wednesday, the pilots wrote:

“You have often said that our country needs leaders to stand up for American workers. We, as pilots at five cargo airlines, are writing to ask you to stand with us in calling on DHL, the German shipping company, to respect U.S. aviation law and stop lowering U.S. industry standards in pay and quality of life. We take tremendous pride in supplying our communities with the goods they need, but we cannot continue to work under the influence of a foreign company that is destabilizing the livelihoods of pilots and manipulating the law.”

Despite bringing in a record $2.8 billion in profits last year, DHL is using its size and market power to undermine American workers. The foreign company is pressuring the U.S.-based cargo airlines it contracts with for the majority of its flying – ABX Air, Atlas Air, Southern Air, Polar Air and Kalitta Air – to provide service at rock-bottom rates; the pressure trickles down to pilots and lowers industry standards in everything from wages and benefits to workplace policies. The company is also attempting to skirt U.S. laws designed to protect American airlines against foreign influence.

The pilots – many of whom are veterans and reservists – are marching in front of the White House with signs reading, “Mr. President – U.S. Pilots Need Your Help,” “Make the Airline Industry Great Again” and “DHL – Driving Down Living Standards for U.S. Pilots.” Frustrated by DHL’s ongoing efforts to shortchange pilots and delays in negotiations, pilots from one of the carriers, ABX Air, went on a two-day strike last year during the busy holiday shipping season that grounded flights for DHL. Pilots from the four other carriers have all voted to strike if necessary.

“As cargo pilots, we take great pride in delivering for our customers safely and efficiently, and we are proud of the standards that have long defined our nation’s piloting tradition,” said Michael Griffith, an Atlas Air pilot who is protesting at the White House. “We are united and speaking out because we can’t stand by while a foreign entity tries to shortchange U.S. pilots, our families and communities. President Trump said he wants to be a champion for American workers, and we hope he’ll join us in calling on DHL to stop using its influence to drive down our job standards.”

DHL’s drive to lower standards in the U.S. is straining operations across the cargo industry. Many long-time pilots flying for DHL are leaving their carriers for better opportunities at other U.S. airlines like FedEx and UPS, while their carriers are struggling to recruit enough new pilots to get the job done. At DHL’s largest contractor, Atlas Air, pilot retention figures have sunk while the attrition rate hit an all-time high at the start of this year. The pilots say that DHL is undermining U.S. job standards through a series of legal maneuvers designed to skirt the law. Federal regulations require cargo airlines to show U.S. citizenship of company owners and operations: the Department of Transportation ensures that no more than 49 percent of an airline’s ownership can come from a foreign entity. DHL is circumventing these rules by hiding behind a web of ties to American carriers, allowing the company to exert outsized influence. DHL already holds a 49 percent stake in one of its major contractors, Polar Air, which flies exclusively for DHL. Southern Air also operates exclusively for DHL, while the German shipping giant owns and leases back the aircraft that Southern pilots fly. Close to 50 percent of Atlas’s flying is for DHL. At some DHL carriers, the pressure to meet the company’s growing demands is resulting in dangerous scheduling practices. At Southern Air, pilots are forced to fly much longer hours than those at UPS and FedEx. The FAA warns that these types of extended duty periods can induce fatigue and even result in a level of impairment equivalent to being drunk.

“It pains me every time I have to tell my family that I’ll be missing a game, a recital or a night out with my wife, a pain that is only worsened by the fact that we’re being pushed to the limits to satisfy DHL’s outrageous race to the bottom,” said Bryan Holmberg, a Southern Air pilot who is protesting at the White House today. “By pressuring our carriers to slash prices, DHL is showing a blatant disregard for American workers and our families that we can’t ignore.”

Other major logistics companies are copying the DHL model. Amazon has hired DHL-contracted airlines to service its new air delivery operation, Prime Air. Following DHL’s lead, Amazon is now helping to lower pay in the industry. Pilots from American Airlines and UPS are also joining the protest in solidarity with their colleagues in the cargo industry.

DHL’s track record of mistreating workers and harming communities is well-documented. In 2008, despite overwhelming opposition from the community, pilots, and members of Congress, the logistics company laid off 8,000 workers in Wilmington, Ohio when it abruptly shuttered its distribution center. In a town with less than 13,000 residents, one in every three Wilmington households was impacted by DHL’s sudden shuttering. The pilots’ letter to President Trump concludes: “Millions of people have found hope in your promise to fight for American workers. This same spirit can be found in our nation’s cargo pilots. We are proudly fighting to protect our jobs and our country by making sure U.S. standards for cargo shipping are upheld by foreign companies like DHL. We hope you take this commitment to heart by joining us in calling on DHL to do right by pilots and the country by telling the company to stop using its influence to drive down our job standards.”