Date: January 20, 2010
Type: Report

January 20, 2010

NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD APPOINTEE: We began the year with a campaign to restore fairness to the National Mediation Board (NMB). AFA-CWA Hero and good friend Representative Lucille Roybal Allard (D-CA) authored a Congressional sign-on letter, encouraging an expedient nomination of a new member to the NMB.

Responding to our lobby efforts, 81 members of the U.S. House of Representatives signed on to Representative Roybal Allard’s letter, which was delivered to newly inaugurated President Barack Obama.

Although the National Mediation Board is not considered a top tier federal agency, former AFA International President, Linda Puchala, was quickly nominated to serve on the Board and the U.S. Senate confirmed her appointment in May 2009.

FLIGHT ATTENDANT CAREER RECLASSIFICATION: The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains a Standard Occupation Classification system in which every occupation is assigned to a certain category. For the past 30 years, Flight Attendants had been listed in the personal care providers’ category, along with professionals such as funeral attendants, hairdressers and fitness trainers.

The Department of Labor responded to AFA-CWA’s formal comments and reclassified the Flight Attendant occupation to its rightful place. Flight Attendants are now classified as essential transportation workers, with pilots and air traffic controllers.

FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (FMLA) TECHNICAL CORRECTION: On February 9, 2009, Representatives Tim Bishop (D-NY) and Thad McCotter (R-MI) reintroduced our legislation to clarify the intent of the original Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) to ensure that Flight Attendants and pilots are treated fairly and have equal access to FMLA.

The Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act was introduced with 53 bipartisan cosponsors and then immediately considered under a House procedure known as suspension of the rules. Because of the bipartisan nature of the legislation and our aggressive grassroots campaign in the previous Congress, the bill was approved in the U.S. House of Representatives, by a unanimous voice vote.

On July 9, 2009, companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), along with lead cosponsors Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chris Dodd (D-CT), Kit Bond (R-MO), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Jim Webb (D-VA). After an extensive lobby effort, the measure passed the U.S. Senate on November 10 by unanimous consent. It was then sent back to the U.S. House of Representatives for approval on December 2 and presented to President Barack Obama on December 9, 2009. President Obama signed the bill into law, on December 21, 2009.

This is an enormous victory for Flight Attendants, as we will now be provided equal access to the same coverage that has long benefited every other worker in America. This achievement has been made possible through the hard work and tireless efforts of our Government Affairs Committee members and Flight Attendant calls and letters to Congress in support of this important legislation. We recognize and are appreciative of the efforts of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Congressmen Tim Bishop (D-NY and Thad McCotter (R-MI) for championing this legislation, as well as the work of former Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) in the 110th Congress.

NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE TO CONGRESS: In March, we began our face-to-face contact with Congressional offices as part of our campaign to keep our elected representatives informed about our Contract Negotiations. Members of the United Master Executive Council and several Government Affairs Committee Members met with 95 House and Senate offices and dropped off information to an additional 56 offices. Congress may play a role at different stages of our Negotiations and we want to be sure that our elected representatives hear from us throughout the process.
This first round of visits gave us the opportunity to talk about the challenges we have faced since United’s bankruptcy and to explain how we felt our Negotiations efforts would compliment Congressional efforts to restore the middle class and rebuild our economy.

We met with both Republican and Democratic offices from our Local Council geographic locations, newly elected members of Congress and members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee as well as a limited number of Senate offices. Each office received a packet of information, which included a letter from United AFA-CWA MEC President Greg Davidowitch, a detailed primer on the National Mediation Board and the Railway Labor Act (RLA) and a chart of the negotiations procedures under the RLA.

ANTITRUST IMMUNITY REVIEW: House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman, James Oberstar (D-MN) has some serious concerns about the broad scope of antitrust immunity granted to U.S. airlines to form alliances with their airline partners. Chairman Oberstar introduced legislation that would reassess the benefit of antitrust immunity for airline alliances by directing the Comptroller General to study the legal requirements and policies followed by the Department of Transportation in deciding whether to approve international alliances and exempt such alliances from U.S. antitrust laws.

The Comptroller General would be required to share the findings with Congress along with any recommendations for changes to the DOT decision-making process. The legislation also sunsets existing grants of antitrust immunity after three years, renewable based on the policies in effect at the time of the request.
The United MEC fully supports the Oberstar language.

REAUTHORIZATION of the FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Every few years the U.S. Congress is required to reauthorize the programs of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). This “must pass” legislation, referred to as the FAA Reauthorization bill, is extremely important to us as it provides a legislative vehicle for AFA-CWA to address issues that affect our safety, health and our workplace. The reauthorization process is how we passed Flight Attendant certification, increased penalties for crewmember assault, whistleblower protections and the no-smoking bans.

The last FAA Reauthorization bill expired in 2007 but the 110th Congress failed to complete their work on this legislation. Congress has approved a number of funding extensions, in order to keep the Federal Aviation Administration running.

In the first session of the 111th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a long-term authorization bill (H.R. 915) on May 21, 2009. The Senate Commerce,

Science and Transportation Committee approved a version (S. 1451) in July but the legislation has not been sent to the Senate floor for a final vote.

The House approved bill includes:

  • Expansion of the Human Intervention Management Study (HIMS): This provision establishes a return to work program to allow Flight Attendants an opportunity for rehabilitation after testing positive for drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Continuation of Flight Attendant Fatigue Study: A mandate that the Federal Aviation Administration initiate a process for the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) to carry out its recommendations for further study of Flight Attendant fatigue. Approximately $1 million was appropriated in the 2007 Omnibus Appropriations bill for CAMI researchers to carry out the detailed, comprehensive study called for in their initial fatigue study.
  • Cabin Air Quality: This provision mandates the completion of the air quality study and analysis, including the collection of samples of the air and testing for contaminants.
  • Pesticide Spraying Passenger Notification: This provision would require, upon purchasing tickets, that passengers be notified if pesticides will be applied on the flight.
  • Cabin Temperature Standards Study: This language calls for a study of extreme cabin temperatures.
  • Occupational Safety and Health-like Protections for Flight Attendants: This provision establishes Cabin Occupational Safety and Health Inspectors to ensure the aircraft cabin is free from hazards that could cause physical harm to Flight Attendants and requires the FAA Administrator to conduct rulemaking proceedings to address, at a minimum, recordkeeping; blood borne pathogens; noise; sanitation; hazard communication; anti-discrimination; access to employee exposure and medical records: and temperature standards for the aircraft.
  • Cell phone prohibition: A provision prohibiting the in-flight use of cell phones on commercial aircraft.
  • Antitrust Immunity Review: A provision to allow analysis of grants of antitrust immunity. This provision also sunsets existing antitrust immunity every three years, renewable based on any new policies in effect at the time.
  • Foreign Ownership: Further definition of provisions restricting foreign control of U.S. airlines.

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee approved FAA Reauthorization bill includes:

  • Continuation of Flight Attendant fatigue research.
  • Expansion of the Human Intervention Management Study (HIMS): This provision establishes a return to work program to allow Flight Attendants an opportunity for rehabilitation after testing positive for drug or alcohol abuse.
  • English Language Proficiency: A requirement that Flight Attendants be proficient in English.
  • Occupational Safety and Health-like Protections for Flight Attendants: A provision directing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to complete work on developing workplace safety and health protections for Flight Attendants.
  • Cabin Air Quality: A requirement for the FAA to research and identify aircraft sensor and air cleaning technology that could be used to reduce air supply contamination onboard the aircraft.
  • Alcohol Awareness Training: This provision would provide enhanced alcohol awareness training for Flight Attendants and gate agents.

After passage in the Senate, the bills will be sent to a Conference Committee, where Senate and House members will work out the differences in each chamber’s bill.

BANNING IN-FLIGHT CELL PHONE USAGE: Once the House approved FAA Reauthorization bill included a provision for banning in-flight cell phone usage, the cell phone industry began an aggressive lobby campaign to keep an in-flight cell phone ban from being included in the Senate Commerce Committee passed FAA Reauthorization bill.

We still have opportunities to have an in-flight cell phone ban included in the FAA Reauthorization bill before the Senate takes up approval of FAA Reauthorization or while the legislation is being merged in Conference Committee.

EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE: The Employee Free Choice Act would facilitate the formation of unions under the National Labor Relations Act by simplifying the process and allowing employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing Union representation. This bill would also ensure good-faith collective bargaining and provide mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices, under the National Labor Relations Act.

In the 110th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Employee Free Choice Act by a vote of 241-185. Supporters of the Senate version of the bill fell nine votes short of the 60 votes needed to limit debate and proceed to final consideration of the measure.

In the 111th Congress, the Employee Free Choice Act was reintroduced by Representative George Miller (D-CA) and referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor. The legislation has 228 cosponsors. The late Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) introduced the Senate’s companion legislation, which has 40 Senate cosponsors. No further action has been taken.

NATIONAL DAY of SERVICE REMEMBRANCE: On April 21, 2009, President Obama signed into law the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. This bipartisan landmark legislation designates September 11 as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. It gives our nation an opportunity to honor and pay tribute to the heroes and the victims of September 11 and encourages all Americans to find a way to give back on September 11th.

PROTECTING FLIGHT ATTENDANT JOBS: The United Master Executive Council launched a grassroots campaign expressing our concerns with the Administration’s tentative approval of antitrust immunity for Continental to join the Star Alliance along with a new joint venture, to be called Atlantic Plus-Plus, between Air Canada, Lufthansa, United and Continental. Our calls and e-mails to the White House urged the Administration to ensure that grants of immunity from antitrust provisions will not lead to greater job losses for aviation workers.

The Department of Transportation’s final order granted this antitrust immunity with a few restrictions on some U.S. routes to Canada and to Beijing. The United MEC will continue to maintain our advocacy regarding the need for a meaningful national aviation policy.

FLIGHT ATTENDANT SECURITY TRAINING: Under the Transportation Security Administration reauthorization bill (HR 2200) Flight Attendants would receive not less than five hours of hands-on, self-defense security training every two years.

UNITED AFA-CWA NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE to CONGRESS: As part of our ongoing efforts to keep Congressional offices updated on the status of our Negotiations, we held a Congressional staff briefing in June 2009. The briefing gave us the opportunity to discuss the exchange of openers and the enormous gap between the Union and the company’s opening proposals.

AIRLINE DEREGULATION RECONSIDERED: A report released by the Demos Group reveals a three-decade-long pattern of declining profitability and rising instability in the airline industry. The report calls on Congress and the relevant agencies to create a federal task force to examine the industry’s problems and propose solutions.

AFA-CWA Government Affairs Committee Members distributed the report to House and Senate offices in late June.

CARRY-ON BAGGAGE STANDARDS: Representative Daniel Lipinski (D-IL) introduced The Securing Cabin Baggage Act, HR 2870, which would standardize and clarify the dimensions of carry-on bags brought onboard the aircraft.  The legislation would require the Transportation Security Administration to set up templates on luggage conveyor belts that would block pieces that are larger than 22 inches x 18 inches x 10 inches. 

The rule excludes child safety seats and devices to assist disabled passengers and has exceptions for crewmember luggage.   

SHAREHOLDER VOTE on EXECUTIVE COMPENSATION: The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to expand regulatory oversight of executive compensation and give shareholders a voice in what corporate executives are paid.

The Corporate and Financial Institution Compensation Fairness Act would give shareholders a non-binding vote on the compensation plans of companies’ top five executives. The bill passed in the House by a vote of 237-185.

The legislation would also require a separate non-binding shareholder vote on any “golden parachute” packages for executives who leave a company in the event of a merger or acquisition and require financial firms to disclose any compensation structures that include incentive-based elements. The legislation has been sent to the Senate for their consideration.

A similar measure passed in the House during the 110th Congress. Companion legislation was introduced by former Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) but was never brought up for a committee hearing.

EMPLOYMENT NON-DISCRIMINATION: Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) reintroduced the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the House of Representatives. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced companion legislation in the Senate. This landmark civil rights legislation would prohibit employment discrimination, preferential treatment and retaliation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

These bills have been referred to committee and are expected to be voted on in the second session of the 111th Congress.

CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT OFFICE VISITS: AFA-CWA Government Affairs Committee Members visited with lawmakers across the country during the August 2009 Summer Recess.

LABOR PROTECTIONS IN AIRLINE JOINT VENTURES: AFA-CWA and ALPA began working, along with the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, to have legislative language introduced that would help protect the jobs of aviation workers. The proposed language would require an airlines’ share of pooled profits to be no more than 130% of that airline’s share of the available seat miles on routes covered by joint venture agreements.

The language ensures there is a close correlation between the portion of revenue a U.S. airline receives from a revenue sharing agreement and the amount of actual flying the airline contributes to that arrangement. Requiring U.S. carriers “to play to get paid” will help prevent wholesale outsourcing of jobs and ensure that aviation workers receive a fair share of the jobs that support the revenue sharing partnership. The language would also require the Department of Transportation to approve revenue sharing arrangements between U.S. and foreign carriers before being implemented.

In November 2009, the United MEC AFA-CWA and ALPA Government Affairs Committees met with several Senate offices to begin educating these offices on this proposed language.

ELECTION RULES UNDER the NATIONAL MEDIATION BOARD: The National Mediation Board (NMB) proposed a rule change to revise the biased voting rules that govern Union elections in the airline and railroad industries. The proposed change would allow the majority of workers who actually vote to decide the election and would end the NMB’s default practice of assigning “NO” votes to those who do not participate.

Working along with the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, AFA-CWA MEC Government Affairs Chairs encouraged U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators to sign-on to letters to the National Mediation Board in support of the rule change. Our advocacy resulted in:

  • A Senate letter authored by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman included 39 signatures.
  • A Democratic House letter authored by James Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and George Miller (D-CA) Chairman House Committee on Education and Labor included 178 signatures.
  • A Republican House letter authored by Representatives Candace Miller (R-MI) and Thad McCotter (R-MI) included 13 signatures.

At this time, a final decision on the rule change is still pending.

HEALTH CARE REFORM: For the past year, health care reform has been THE issue consuming the vast majority of attention in Congress. While we were not involved in the many vast details of the legislation, we focused on some of the provisions that would have an impact on AFA-CWA Members. First, AFA made it clear repeatedly that we stand united with CWA and the affiliates of the AFL-CIO in opposition to any provisions that would tax our health care benefits. AFA-CWA has been a signatory, along with many other unions, on letters to Congress stressing our opposition to any provisions that would do so. In addition, AFA-CWA was listed with many other Unions in ads that ran in the Washington Post, NY Times, and various Capitol Hill publications expressing opposition to provisions that would tax our health care benefits.

In November, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Affordable Health Care for America Act. The Senate passed a health care reform bill on December 24, 2009.
Congressional Democratic leaders bypassed a formal House and Senate conference to meld their health care bills. The White House, House and Senate Democratic leaders, and key committee chairmen met informally to find compromise between the two health care bills.

Return to Government Affairs Reports home page

top of page