United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: October 16, 2014
Type: Report


The U.S. House and U.S. Senate have recessed until mid-November while members of Congress return to their home districts to campaign for the November 4, 2014 Mid Term Election.  Legislators will return to Washington, D.C. in mid-November for a lame duck session to try to complete their business before adjourning the 113th Congress (2013-2014).  The (new) 114th Congress (2015-2016) will convene in January 2015.  


With less than three weeks until Election Day Democrats face a solid challenge in their battle to maintain control of the U.S. Senate.   Republicans looking to claim their first Senate Majority in eight years will need to pick up six democratic-held seats.   The most competitive Senate races are in Colorado, Arkansas, Iowa, Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Kansas and New Hampshire. What happens in any one of these States could determine control of the Senate.  Unfortunately, in all but one State (Kansas) a democrat currently holds the seat.    

Although there is a very slim chance of Democrats taking control of the House, there are several key House races rated as toss-ups that involve some of AFA’s good friends.   The AFA-CWA MEC Government Affairs Committee Chairs have identified several Senate and House races where our Members’ votes could make a difference. The International Office and AFA Government Affairs committee members have sent endorsement letters or  handwritten postcards to AFA Members in these States/districts with a message  encouraging votes for the following: Sen. Mark Begich (AK), Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ), Rep. Ron Barber (AZ), Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA), Rep. Scott Peters (CA), Rep. Ami Bera (CA), Sen. Mark Udall (CO), Rep. Patrick Murphy (FL), Rep. Bruce Braley (IA) * running for Senate, Rep. Brad Schneider (IL), Rep. Rick Nolan (MN), Sen. Kay Hagan (NC), Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Rep. Carol Shea Porter (NH), Rep. Ann Kuster (NH), Rep. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Rep. Tim Bishop (NY), Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY),  candidate Kathleen Rice (NY), Rep. Michael Grimm (NY), Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR), Rep. Suzanne DelBene (WA), and Rep. Nick Rahall (WV). 


The November 4, Mid Term Election will be determined by who does a better job of turning out the vote.  Traditionally, Republicans turn out in greater numbers for mid-term elections and their 2014 get-out-the vote efforts  are extraordinarily well funded by conservative, “Right-To-Work” anti-Union groups like the Koch Brothers, the John Birch Society and the National Right To Work  Committee.  

Grassroots mobilization will be key.  We cannot let corporate America buy the U.S. Senate. We need to continue to let our Members know how important this election is and remind them to vote either by mail-in absentee ballot or in-person early voting.  We also need to remind our members in key states like Washington, Oregon and Colorado to return their mail-in ballots. 

Local Councils who are affiliated with their AFL-CIO State Federation or Central Labor Councils are encouraged to “adopt a night” at the local phone bank and should be encouraging your Local Council Membership to participate in phone banking and labor-to-neighbor walks in your communities. 

Data has shown that Union Members are more likely to vote for and support Union backed candidate when their Union reaches out to them personally.  That is why our get-out-the-vote efforts are so important.  If we can boost voter turnout we can return our good friends to Washington so they can continue to fight for and support our issues.  


In the 114th Congress, our lawmakers will begin the process of reauthorizing the continued operation and funding of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), legislation commonly referred to as the FAA Reauthorization bill.  This legislative proposal affects the entire aviation industry, as well as every person working in the industry.  It is the legislative vehicle used to address a wide variety of aviation safety and security issues, as well as the FAA and air traffic control system, issues pertaining to Washington’s national airport, airport construction projects, funding of the air transportation system and a wide range of other aviation related issues.  The current FAA reauthorization bill, “The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012” is set to expire in 2015. 

The FAA reauthorization process is AFA’s opportunity to enhance our workplace safety and health, help protect our jobs and ensure that our aviation transportation system remains the safest in the world.   In past reauthorization bills we have been able to secure our no-smoking ban, Flight Attendant certification, whistleblower protections, language addressing occupational safety and health standards for Flight Attendants, a drug and alcohol awareness and rehabilitation program for Flight Attendants, increased penalties for crewmember assaults, air quality studies, Flight Attendant fatigue studies and language codifying the requirement that U.S. airlines be effectively controlled by U.S. citizens.

As you can see the FAA reauthorization bill has been the legislative vehicle to advance many of AFA’s legislative priorities and AFA has long list of issues that we would like to see addressed in the next FAA reauthorization bill. 


On September 2, 2014, the Department of Transportation dismissed Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) request for temporary authorization to fly into and out of the United States.  While we acknowledge the DOT for siding with U.S. aviation workers and U.S. airlines, this announcement was due to the coordinated efforts of a broad coalition of labor unions, including AFA.   Our voice was clearly heard but the fight is not over. 

While denying the exemption is an important step, the Department of Transportation is still reviewing NAI’s application for a foreign air carrier permit that would allow permanent access to U.S. airports.  Because of our aggressive lobby efforts, numerous Members of Congress wrote to the DOT voicing their concerns with NAI’s application.

AFA will continue to work with our coalition partners in the AFL-CIO’s Transportation and Trades Department (TTD) to urge the DOT to reject NAI’s “flags of convenience” scheme by denying their pending foreign air carrier application. We simply cannot allow foreign carriers who dodge laws and regulations and undermine labor standards to create a global race to the bottom. 


Our most recent lobby effort to oppose any changes that would allow inflight cellular voice calls concluded with 77 members of Congress signing on to a letter written to the Departments of Transportation, Justice and Homeland Security and the Federal Communications Commission.  

The bipartisan letter, which was circulated by Representatives David McKinley (R-WV) and Dan Lipinski (D-IL),   asked these four federal agencies to work collaboratively to ensure all safety and security concerns raised by the introduction of wireless communication capabilities are identified and fully addressed.  The letter also urges thee agencies to continue the ban on cellular voice calls inflight. 




Rep. Don Young (R)                                  


Rep. Raul Grijalva (D)

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D)


Rep. Jackie Speier (D)

Rep. Paul Cook (R) 

Rep. Eric Swalwell (D)

Rep. John Garamendi (D)

Rep. Barbara Lee (D)  

Rep. Mike Honda (D)

Rep. Jim Costa (D)

Rep. Sam Farr (D)

Rep. Janice Hahn (D)

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D)

Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D)

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D)

Rep. Maxine Waters (D)

Rep. Julia Brownley (D) 


Rep. Ed Perlmutter  (D) 


Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D)

District of Columbia

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) 


Rep. Corrine Brown (D)

Rep. Lois Frankel (D)

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D)

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)


Rep. Hank Johnson (D)


Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D)


Rep. Dan Lipinski (D)

Rep. Rodney Davis (R) 

Rep. Adam Kizinger (R) 

Rep.   Mike Quigley (D)        

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D)

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) 


Rep. Andre Carson (D)

Rep. Pete Visclosky (D)                                                                                                    


Rep. Michael Michaud (D)


Rep. Donna Edwards (D)


Rep. Michael Capuano (D) 

Rep. Stephen Lynch (D)

Rep. Katherine Clark (D)

Rep. Jim McGovern (D)


Rep. Sander Levin (D)

Rep. John Conyers (D) 


Rep. Keith Ellison (D)

Rep. Rick Nolan (D)


Rep. Bennie Thompson (D)


Rep. Dina Titus (D)

New Jersey

Rep.  Albio Sires (D)

Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R)

Rep.  Bill Pascrell (D)

New Hampshire

Rep. Carol Shea Porter (D)

New York

Rep. Tim Bishop (D)

Rep. Steve Israel (D)

Rep. Michael Grimm (R)

Rep.  Hakeem Jeffries (D)

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D)

Rep. Charles Rangel (D)

Rep. Paul Tonko (D)

Rep. Chris Gibson (R)

North Carolina

Rep. Walter Jones (R)


Rep. David Joyce (R)

Rep. Bill Johnson (R)


Rep. Peter DeFazio (D)

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D) 


Rep. Robert Brady (D)

Rep. Lou Barletta (R)

Rep. Patrick Meehan (R)


Rep. Steve Cohen (D)


Rep. Beto  O’Rourke (D)

Rep. Gene Greene (D)

Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D)


Rep. Derek Kilmer (D)

Rep. Jim McDermott  (D)

Rep. Rick Larsen (D) 

West Virginia

Rep. David McKinley (R)

Rep. Nick Rahall (D)


Rep. Mark Pocan (D)

Rep. Reid Ribble (R) 



Under the United States Constitution, the Congress, made up of 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 members of the Senate, has the power to make laws. A bill may be introduced in either the House or the Senate, and must be passed by both chambers, before it becomes law or is vetoed by the President. 

Each year, thousands of bills are introduced in both chambers of Congress. Of these, only a fraction will make it to the President’s desk for signature to become law. An overwhelming majority of bills are either rejected outright or quietly forgotten, through lack of attention and action.   Legislation is not always passed or defeated on its own merits.  A bill’s future depends on many factors including who introduced the legislation, what committee reviews it, the bill’s specific language, what time in the congressional session the bill was introduced and what organized interests oppose or support the bill.  

Any legislation that was introduced in a previous session of Congress and not passed must be reintroduced in the next Congress. 



In 2005, and again in 2013, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) tried to make changes to the Prohibited Items List to allow knives back onboard the aircraft.  Through our collective action and with the help of our Congressional allies, we forced the TSA to reverse their decision, both times.  Unfortunately, our work is not done.  We know that the only way we can guarantee that knives will never be allowed back onboard our aircraft is through a permanent legislative ban.  

Legislation was introduced in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives that would prohibit the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from implementing any proposed policy changes that would permit passengers to carry knives onboard aircraft. 

The Keep Knives Out of Our Skies Act, S. 1008, was introduced in the Senate on May 22, 2013 as bipartisan legislation by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), the late Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).  Additional cosponsors include Senators Ed Markey (D-MA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Mark Begich (D-AK). 

The Keep Knives Out of Our Skies Act, H.R. 4368, was introduced in the House on April 7, 2014 as bipartisan legislation by Representatives Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) as companion legislation to the Senate bill. Additional cosponsors include Representatives David Joyce (R-OH), Dan Lipinski (D-IL), Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Janice Hahn (D-CA).  

A similar bill, The No Knives Act, H.R. 1093 was introduced on by Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) (Ed Markey has since been elected to the U.S. Senate) and Michael Grimm (R-NY).  This bill had 64 cosponsors; however, the bill’s language was too restrictive.  


In the House:  The Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Mobile Wireless Devices Act of 2013, H.R. 3676  directs the Secretary of transportation to issue regulations that prohibit the use of cell phones for voice communications during the inflight portion of any scheduled domestic commercial flight.  The bill provides an exemption for on-duty members of the flight and cabin crews, as well as federal law enforcement personnel acting in an official capacity.  

The bill was introduced by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) and senior committee member Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR)  in the wake of the FCC’s announced plans to review the current ban on inflight cell phone calls.  The bill had 33 cosponsors. 

The Prohibiting In-Flight Voice Communications on Wireless Devices Act of 2013 was approved by a voice vote during a Mark-Up of the bill in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on February 11, 2014.  H.R. 3676 was reported and placed on the House calendar for a vote but it is unlikely to see further action in the 113th Congress. 

In the Senate:  On December 12, 2013, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation to prohibit cell phone conversations on commercial airline flights.  The bipartisan Commercial Flight Courtesy Act, S. 1811, would prohibit voice communications through mobile communication devices on regularly scheduled commercial passenger flights.   Cosponsors include Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Mark Begich (D-AK), Brian Schatz (D-HI , Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Kay Hagan (D-NC). 

In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee, in the 2014 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations bill directs the DOT to complete its rulemaking on voice communications expeditiously and put in place a clear rule that takes into account the full impact of inflight use of mobile wireless devices on consumers and the commercial aviation industry.  This report language is similar to the House language. 


On April 26, 2013, Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced legislation to require secondary cockpit safety barriers on all Part 121 airliners.  The Saracini Aviation Safety Act, H.R. 1775, was introduced in honor of Victor Saracini, Captain of United 175.  Representative Fitzpatrick became interested in this issue when he learned that United was removing secondary barriers from its Boeing 787’s.   Ellen Saracini, the widow of Captain Saracini, has put a tremendous amount of time and energy lobbying on this important bill, which now has 60 cosponsors.   

A Senate companion bill, the Saracini Aviation Safety Act of 2013, S. 1495, was introduced by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) on September 11, 2013.  S. 1495 has cosponsors including Senators Toomey (R-PA), Boxer (D-CA), Warren (D-MA), Feinstein (D-CA), Markey (D-MA), Johanns (R-NE), Blumenthal (D-CT), Franken (D-MN), Mikulski (D-MD) and Booker (D-NJ).   

AFA is fully committed to and has repeatedly supported multilayered approaches to making our skies safer including measures like reinforced cockpit doors, secondary barriers and enhanced self-defense and situational awareness training for Flight Attendants.  

While Congress has repeatedly recognized the need for Flight Attendant self-defense training, our efforts have been thwarted by certain airlines.  In a last minute revision to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2003, the wording in a provision for basic, mandated self-defense security training was changed from the TSA “shall” issue these guidelines to the TSA “may” issue these guidelines.  By changing this one word, the Congressional mandate to issue industry-wide guidelines was eliminated. 


The U.S. Trade Representative is negotiating a bilateral free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).  The EU has indicated that it intends to include air transport services in this trade agreement, including cabotage rights and changes to our foreign ownership and control laws. 

The United States has the largest domestic traffic market of any country.  Allowing foreign air carriers to conduct cabotage operations (the transport of local traffic between two points in the same country) with workers who are subject to the labor laws of that company’s home country, threatens our jobs and our collective bargaining power. 

Cabotage is prohibited by U.S. aviation regulations, and AFA-CWA will continue to strongly oppose any efforts to modify those statutes.  


The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, S. 815 and H.R. 1755 creates federal workplace protections for gay and transgender people by making it illegal for employers to discriminate against workers based on their sexual or gender identity.  ENDA does not create any “special rights” but is based on the labor principle that workers should be judged on their abilities.  Currently, in many states, employers are permitted to fire workers for no other reason than their sexual orientation or gender identity.  

In a 64-32 vote, the United States Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) last November with broad bipartisan support.  Every democrat and independent member of the Senate voted yes.  They were joined by ten Republicans:  Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (ME), Jeff Flake (AZ), Orrin Hatch (UT), Dean Heller (NV), Mark Kirk (IL) John McCain (AZ), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Rob Portman (OH) and Pat Toomey (PA). 

Unfortunately, with the Supreme Court ruling in Hobby-Lobby, which entitles a for-profit corporation to claim religious freedom, several LBGT groups, including Pride at Work and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, withdrew their support for ENDA.  In response, Representative Jarrod Polis (D-CO) introduced H. Res. 678 which would bring an amended ENDA to the floor with a religious exemption clause.  However, it seems unlikely that Congress will have time to do any more work on ENDA in the 113th Congress.

Since 1993 (103rd Congress), AFA has been part of a broad coalition of labor, business, human and civil rights, religious and community organizations that have been working to build support and cosponsors for ENDA.   We will continue to work for passage of these long overdue workplace protections. 


On July 10, 2014, Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Al Franken (D-MN) introduced legislation to curb abuses that deprive employees and retirees of their earnings and retirement savings when businesses collapse.  The Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act of 2014, S. 2589, would make several changes to Chapter 11 bankruptcy law, putting workers’ interests near the top when companies file for bankruptcy. 

The bill would improve recoveries for employees and retirees, reduce employee and retiree losses and restrict excessive executive compensation programs.  

A companion measure, The Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act of 2013, H.R. 100, was introduced at the beginning of the 113th Congress, January 25, 2013, by Representative John Conyers (D-MI) the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee.  H.R. 100 has 13 cosponsors including:  Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Hank Johnson (D-GA), former Representative Mel Watt (D-NC), George Miller (D-CA),  Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Dingell (D-MI),  Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Barbara Le (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA). 


The Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v FEC dealt a huge blow to our already fragile campaign finance system, making it easier than ever for big money donors and special interests to buy our elections.  By a 5-4 decision the Roberts Court struck down aggregate contribution limits equating campaign contributions to free speech.   The super-rich will join big corporations in using their unlimited funds to pressure elected officials for special access, policy agendas and tax breaks and to flood the airwaves with those anonymous political messages that we all dislike.   

Taken together, the Supreme Court’s Citizen United and McCutcheon decisions have effectively put our election system up for sale to the highest bidder and given the wealthiest Americans an advantage to influence our democracy.  Washington can take steps to strengthen our campaign finance system and curtail the disastrous effects of big money in politics. 

Representative John Sarbanes (D-MD)  introduced the Government by the People Act, H.R. 20, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) which increases the power of small contributions that regular Americans can afford to give to political campaigns and incentivizes candidates to reach out to grassroots supporters.   The bill has 159 cosponsors. 


Since the Supreme Court’s decision invalidating a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, several states have adopted restrictive voting changes.  Some states have passed new laws that require voters to show a government issued photo ID, reduce early voting, eliminate same day registration and weaken disclosure requirements for campaign advertisements.  Other states, such as Arizona and Florida have imposed new restrictions on groups that sign up voters for absentee ballots.  

The United MEC fought hard and won a Grievance to provide our Members with registration and voter information and we will fight all attempts to limit early voting, restrict registration and cut voting hours and polling places.  AFA will work with our allies to protect the right to vote for ALL citizens and we are committed to ensuring that Flight Attendants, who are eligible to vote in U.S. elections, are not deprived of their voice and their vote. 


The United States is currently negotiating an expansive free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, also known as “NAFTA on Steroids”,  that is the most secretive and least transparent trade negotiations in history.  The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the biggest and most destructive trade agreement you have never heard of.  

The TPP is more than a “free-trade” agreement.  It is part of the overall corporate and Wall Street agenda to make the world a safe haven for corporate investment and profits by reducing labor costs; undercutting workers’ rights; dismantling labor, environmental, health care, food safety and financial laws; and allowing corporations to challenge U.S. laws in special international tribunals rather than our own court system. 

The TPP is being secretly negotiated by 600 corporate advisors who have full access to the draft texts of the negotiations but the public, consumer, labor, environmental, human rights and public health group and others have been excluded.   Even members of Congress are restricted as to what they can see about the TPP and how they can see it. 


Corporate lobbyists now want to rush the TPP through Congress, using “Fast Track Authority”.  Congress could consider legislation to renew Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority during the lame duck session 

Fast Track, if passed by Congress, bypasses the Constitutional obligation of Congress to oversee and carefully consider trade agreements.  If Fast Track is enacted, Congress must vote on whatever is presented without amendment and with an “up or down” vote.  It denies Congress any opportunity to debate or amend the deal and would allow TPP to be rammed through without evaluation of the impact it will have on consumers, workers and the environment. 


In 2012, for the first time in its history, the Violence Against Women authorization failed to make it through Congress because of the House Republican leadership’s opposition to provisions in the legislation.  Rather than renew VAWA, the Republican leadership let it expire.  Since its inception in 1994 the Violence Against Women Act has always enjoyed bipartisan support.   In fact, the original legislation was first championed by then Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

In February 2013, the Senate voted 78-22 to approve the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013, S.47 which reauthorizes the bill for five years and extends protections to Native American women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and immigrant  victims of domestic violence.  In addition, the bill provides new tools and training to prevent domestic violence homicides.  All 22 Senate “no” votes were cast by Republican men.  

After pressure from both Democrats and Republicans the House leadership brought the bill to the House floor for a vote, where it passed by a vote of 286-138.  The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 became Public Law 113-4. 


For AFA to maintain our influence in the legislative arena it is essential to support the political programs that complement our legislative efforts.  Legislation and politics go hand-in-hand and to successfully promote our legislative goals, which are based solely on issues which impact our safety, security and health, our rights as Union members and members of the labor community, our work environment and our careers, we have to be active on both fronts. 

FlightPAC is our non-partisan Political Action Fund and it is the most important tool we have to help us achieve our legislative goals. FlightPAC helps to give us a voice in Washington, DC and is the best investment Flight Attendants can make to help improve our future.  No Union dues from our Members are used to contribute to campaigns. Only FlightPAC contributions can be used to help elect Senators and Representatives who understand and defend our legislative agenda and because FlightPAC is non-partisan we contribute to legislators who support us, regardless of their party affiliation. 


For a federal incumbent, a FlightPAC endorsement is based on their voting record and support of AFA’s legislative efforts – voting for AFA supported legislation, cosponsoring AFA supported legislation, signing on to Congressional sign-on letters, speaking out on the floor of Congress in support of our issues, etc. 

For non-incumbents in a House or a Senate race, an endorsement is based primarily on their responses to the AFA candidate questionnaire and the ultimate endorsement is made by AFA’s FlightPAC Steering Committee made up of the Political/Legislative Policy Committee and International Officers.      

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