United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: July 1, 2011
Type: Report

Please note this report is dated July 1, 2011 and does not reflect the failure to extend funding on July 22, 2011


The House and Senate approved another extension of funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), while House and Senate negotiators continue to work on a long-term reauthorization bill. The FAA has been operating under a series of 19 short-term extensions since the 2007 expiration of the last long-term FAA bill. This current (and 20th) extension extends FAA programs until July 22, 2011.

In February, the Senate approved the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act, S. 223. The bill includes several provisions advanced by AFA-CWA to improve our work lives. These include a provision clarifying a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on certain OSHA protections for Flight Attendants; an English language proficiency standard; a provision for a study of air quality in the aircraft cabin and a Human Intervention Management Study (HIMS) program for cabin crews (although funds for this program have already been appropriated, the program needs to be authorized.)

The House approved the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011, H.R. 658, in April. The Republican written House bill ignored several Flight Attendant health and safety provisions that were included in the FAA reauthorization bill that passed the House in the last session of Congress. Efforts by the House minority party to amend the FAA bill to include several of our issues were unsuccessful. During House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure mark-up of the FAA bill, Representative Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced an amendment to provide OSHA standards for Flight Attendants and an amendment for the FAA to develop recommendations for a final rule on minimizing Flight Attendant fatigue. Both amendments failed along (almost) party-line votes.

The House bill does include language for all flights that have Flight Attendants onboard to be “no smoking”, closing a loophole that allowed smoking on charter flights. The bill also includes a provision for notification of insecticide application.

Also included in the House FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 is a Republican written provision that overturns the National Mediation Board (NMB) rule that provides for fair and democratic union representation elections. The new rule, finalized last year, did away with an unjust and antiquated requirement under which a super-majority of airline and railroad workers had to vote in favor of union representation before a union could be certified. The Senate FAA reauthorization bill does NOT contain a repeal of the NMB rules.

Repeal of the NMB rules is a top priority for the Republican leadership. This is one of the most controversial provisions that will be discussed in conference committee.

An amendment to strike the language from the House bill, introduced by Representative Steve LaTourette (R-OH), failed by a vote of 206-220.

Sixteen Republican members of Congress kept their word and voted with labor for the LaTourette amendment, despite an all-out lobbying blitz by anti-union groups and Republican caucus briefings.  The following Republicans joined ALL Democrats voting FOR the amendment:

Steven LaTourette (OH)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ)
Michael Grimm (NY)
Walter Jones (NC)
Chris Smith (NJ)
Peter King (NY)
Tim Johnson (IL)
Mario Diaz-Balart (FL)
Jon Runyon (NJ)
Chris Gibson (NY)
David Rivera (FL)
Don Young (AK)
Dave Reichert (WA)
JoAnn Emerson (MO)
Todd Platts (PA)
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL)

These 16 Representatives defied their own leadership to vote with us. If you know Flight Attendants who live in these Districts, please encourage them to thank their Representative for their vote. Local Council Government Affairs Committee Chairs should send an appropriate letter of appreciation to the Congressional offices that represent Flight Attendants from their Council who voted to strike the repeal language from the House FAA reauthorization bill.

Obama Administration senior officials will recommend that the President veto a final bill that “does not safeguard the ability of airline and railroad workers to decide whether or not they would be represented by a union based upon a majority of ballots cast in an election”.

The Republicans have also made removing our OSHA language from the FAA reauthorization bill a top priority. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) tried unsuccessfully to strip the OSHA language from the Senate bill. Flight Attendants have been excluded from basic federal health and safety protections because the FAA has claimed exclusive jurisdiction over cabin crew member health and safety, since 1975. OSHA protections for Flight Attendants are long overdue.

The differences in the House and Senate versions of FAA reauthorization will now be worked out in a conference committee made up of negotiators from the Senate and the House who will meet to resolve the differences in the two bills. The Senate has named Senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Max Baucus (D-MT), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), Jim DeMint (R-SC), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

The House conferees to the conference committee on FAA reauthorization have not been appointed but once formally appointed they can only serve on the committee for 10 business days or 20 calendar days. In the meantime, the House and Senate staff members are meeting to work out the differences on the less controversial provisions in the House and Senate bills.


The House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security will be introducing legislation to authorize the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Steve Schembs has been working with committee staff, since January, to request AFA’s counter terrorism provisions be included in the bill. These measures include Flight Attendant security training, carry-on baggage limits, a wireless communication device for Flight Attendants and a restriction on use of communications systems by passengers.

On Tuesday, July 12, at 2:00PM, the Subcommittee will hold a hearing on authorizing the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for fiscal years 2012 and 2013. The hearing will be broadcast on their web site at: http://homeland.house.gov/hearing/subcommittee-hearing-industry-perspectives-authorizing-transportation-security.


Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees across the country elected the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO (AFGE) as their exclusive Union representative. The 8,903 – 8,447 vote came in a run-off election with the National Treasury Employees Union.

After a painfully long process and more than a decade without a voice on the job, Transportation Security Officers (TSO) working at airports across the country have achieved the ability to improve their work lives, as well as the services they provide to others, by voting for workplace representation.

AFA issued a press release applauding the TSO for joining AFGE. AFA International President Veda Shook said in her statement “As safety professionals, Flight Attendants count on TSOs every day to ensure a secure work environment and safe travels for passengers.”

Republicans continue to criticize the TSA’s decision this year to grant limited collective bargaining rights to TSOs. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (R-FL) expressed his “less than enthusiastic” feelings about AFGE’s victory. In a statement Representative Mica said “The Obama Administration today can check the box on another boost for big labor and a significant setback for the traveling public.”


Currently, federal law provides basic legal protection against employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin or disability, but not sexual orientation or gender identity and gender expression. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would provide basic protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. It affords all Americans basic employment protection from unjust prejudice and discrimination

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act, H.R. 1397, was introduced in the House on April 6, 2011, by Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) and has 146 cosponsors. Companion legislation, S. 811, was introduced in the Senate April 13, 2011, by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and has 39 Senate cosponsors.

AFA has been part of a coalition of labor, business, religious, human and civil rights and community organizations that have been working to build support and cosponsors for ENDA since the first bill was introduced in 1993. Employment non-discrimination legislation has been introduced in every Congress since then and has enjoyed bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House, but has yet to reach enough votes for passage. In November 2007, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act passed the House and was placed on the Senate calendar. Unfortunately, the bill was not scheduled for floor time prior to the adjournment of the 110th Congress.

AFA will continue to work with ENDA coalition partners for passage of these long overdue workplace protections.


Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has written to National Mediation Board (NMB) Chairman Harry Hoglander expressing “concern” over the NMB’s June 2010 election rule change. This is not an official investigation but Rep. Issa’s continued assault on workers and what he calls the “forced unionization of America.”


The Political/Legislative Policy Committee is charged with the responsibility for ongoing study of matters relating to AFA-CWA’s political and legislative programs. The Policy Committee Members are Alin Boswell, USAirways; Steve Couckuyt, Alaska; Ken Diaz, United; Mary Oswald, American Eagle and Alternate Justin Phillips, Mesa.

The Policy Committee reviews AFA’s legislative activities, proposes AFA-CWA legislative priorities and coordinates FlightPAC activities, often times with input from AFA MEC Government Affairs Chairs. The Policy Committee Members are also Members of the FlightPAC Steering Committee. FlightPAC contributions to candidates and administration of FlightPAC are coordinated by AFA’s International President.


The AFA Political/Legislative Policy Committee has endorsed Janice Hahn for California’s 36th Congressional District special election. This was the seat vacated by Representative Jane Harman (D). AFA will be mailing a letter from President Veda Shook introducing Janice and asking AFA Members in the 36th Congressional District to consider Janice’s support for Flight Attendants issues when casting their ballot in this special election. A draft of Veda’s letter is included with this report.

The 36th District covers an area by the Los Angeles International Airport including El Segundo and Torrance. We have over 300 United Flight Attendants in the District.


There is a coordinated assault on workers rights, our ability to organize and cutting funding for public education and other public services that is taking place in state legislatures around the country. What started out in a handful of states has spread into a nationwide attack on the middle class. State legislatures claim that enacting laws that strip workers of their collective bargaining rights is about balancing budgets. But don’t be fooled. These state laws are a deliberate campaign to continue to shift power from the middle class majority to the richest 1% in the country.

Anti-worker, right-wing conservative corporate donors have invested hundreds of millions of dollars during the past few decades on a coordinated campaign to crush the ability of workers to organize because the labor movement has been a vital force in the creation and maintenance of the American middle class. Crush the labor movement and you crush the middle class.

One of the key players in pushing forward this corporate agenda is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group composed of mainly Republican state lawmakers and corporate executives. ALEC is a very secretive organization that “ghost writes” model legislation so big corporations and trade associations can advance their legislative agendas in state capitals across the country.

ALEC was founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich, who co-founded the Moral Majority and the Heritage Foundation. ALEC’s agenda began opposing social issues like equal rights and choice but has abandoned these issues in favor of those that benefit their corporate donors. Some corporate friendly bills drafted by ALEC include repealing minimum wage laws, right-to-work laws, paycheck protection, curtailing union political activity and privatizing public pensions.

The “ALEC WATCH” group investigated ALEC’s 1999 publications, tax returns and news articles and showed that ALEC’s major benefactors included United Airlines and the Air Transport Association. Only ALEC members can access their membership information so we are not able to confirm whether or not United is still a member of ALEC.


Even democratic controlled state legislatures, like Illinois, are going after Unions and collective bargaining rights. Fortunately, the Illinois State Senate leadership failed to gain enough support last month for legislation that would strip collective bargaining rights from thousands of public employees. Because of our call to action and the advocacy of other Unions in Illinois, Senate Bill (SB) 1556 was not brought up for a vote.

When workers stand in solidarity we can make a difference. AFA member calls to their Illinois State Senator and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn helped to make sure this damaging legislation didn’t come up for a vote. While this legislation was stopped in June, this issue could come up again when the Illinois General Assembly returns.

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