Jun 6, 2020
Tschaff Reisberg is not only an early proponent of MMT, but is
also a union representative with extensive experience in real-world
struggles between workers and employers. His story - and that of
the flight attendants union - is instructional for anyone fighting
for fundamental change.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline industry was booming. Flight attendants’ jobs were secure, with expectations of growth and more hiring. When the virus hit, the entire industry shut down. They lost 95% of their passengers. Like many industries during the crisis, there were talks of bankruptcy and furloughs.
Tschaff and Steve discuss the impact of the virus on the working class as a whole. When people lose their jobs, they stop spending; when they stop spending, others lose their jobs and it snowballs across the country, as we’ve seen in the record-breaking unemployment figures.
In past financial crises, government bailouts served to enrich corporate CEOs and shareholders, while allowing the working class to suffer. Tschaff’s union was able to win unprecedented protections in the CARES Act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. The airlines were awarded grants that came with stiff conditions: they can’t downsize or do stock buybacks, there are hard limits on executive compensation, and they can’t furlough the employees. Paychecks will be protected through September.
Tschaff’s political and economic education included the realization that unions can’t just fight employers but need to work with the government as well. Corporate interests build connections with political officials and apply constant pressure to carry out their agenda. When the unions do likewise, they’re able to get a seat at the table.
Organized labor has been weakened over the past half-century but has finally stopped declining. The more the unions flex their muscles the more popular they become.
As MMTers, Tschaff and Steve understand the importance of fighting for a Job Guarantee. They talk about the myriad benefits which include protecting labor, stabilizing the economy, and preventing inflation. It also combats anti-immigrant sentiment; if your own job is secure, you have no reason to fear others.
They talk about one aspect of organizing that isn’t always considered. The more engaged you become, you don’t just change others -- you yourself are changed because you interact with people you wouldn't ordinarily meet. Awareness of each others’ issues develops into overlapping and united interests. This is how we build a movement.
Tschaff Reisberg has been in airlines for 12 years, having worked on the ramp, deicing, customer service, and IT. He’s a union delegate for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA local 23089. He currently resides in Charlotte, NC, with his wife and 2-year-old daughter.