United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: September 26, 2011
Type: Report


In coordination with AFA, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) launched a campaign to prevent anti-union Republicans from forcing another senseless shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). A number of events were planned between August 16 - September 16 to pressure lawmakers to pass a long-term bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before the current funding extension for the FAA expired on September 16. During this month long campaign AFA and CWA members distributed leaflets at airports and events across the country urging passengers to tell their members of Congress to pass the FAA bill without attacking fair and democratic Union elections.

The FAA has been operating under a series of 21 short-term extensions since 2007 when the last long-term FAA reauthorization bill expired. Both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have passed FAA reauthorization bills in this session of Congress but their bills have major differences (see LONG-TERM FAA REAUTHORIZATION BILL below). These differences need to be worked out in a Conference Committee but until the House Republican Leadership appoints their Conference Committee members, negotiations on this critical legislation have stalled.

One of the major differences in the bills is that House Republican Leaders insist on overturning a National Mediation Board (NMB) ruling that now makes Union representation elections fair and democratic. This ruling, which took effect last June, no longer counts every worker who does not participate in an election as an automatic vote against the Union. This is just another example of anti-worker Republicans demanding that they get their way at any cost.

This anti-union ideology forced the FAA to partially shut-down for two weeks in July putting nearly 100,000 workers on the unemployment line, putting a stop to hundreds of airport improvement and modernization projects and costing the federal government $30 million a day in lost taxes. It is shameful that in such difficult economic times several Republican leaders held the FAA hostage to further their political agenda.

Not all Republicans share this anti-union sentiment. Sixteen Republican Representatives defied their party leadership to vote with all Democrats to strip this language from the House FAA bill, when it came to the House floor for a vote. Unfortunately the vote failed 220-206. Those Republicans who voted with us included: Steve LaTourette (OH), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Michael Grimm (NY), Walter Jones (NC), Mario Diaz Balart (FL), Tim Johnson (IL), Peter King (NY), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), Chris Smith (NJ), Jon Runyon (NJ), Chris Gibson (NY), David Rivera (FL), Todd Platts (PA), JoAnn Emerson (MO), Don Young (AK) and Dave Reichert (WA).

Our “Countdown to Shutdown” events across the country highlighted the need for Congress to put aside partisan politics and negotiate a long-term FAA reauthorization bill that grows our economy by creating good jobs, improves our aviation infrastructure and keeps Union elections for aviation and rail workers fair and democratic.


Los Angeles: AFA Council 12 held a press conference on September 5 at the Los Angeles International Airport. A number of members of Congress and local labor leaders were invited to join AFA elected leaders and Members in calling on Congress to pass a comprehensive FAA bill and say “NO” to Union-busting. Dante Harris, Local Council 12 President was joined by Linda Farrow, United MEC Vice President, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano (D-CA), member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Congresswoman Janice Hahn (D-CA) on calling on the House Republican Leadership to abandon the controversial provision.

Orlando: Several events were held in Congressman John Mica’s District near Orlando, Florida highlighting Congressman Mica’s controversial and unrelated provision in the FAA bill that would treat union elections for aviation workers differently from every other type of U.S. election. Merv Gordon, Local Council 20 President spoke at an event in front of Congressman Mica’s Maitland, Florida office on September 1.

Seattle: AFA Members from United and Alaska helped educate passengers about the pending FAA shutdown and the need for passengers to contact their elected representatives at an event at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport.

Atlanta: AFA Members leafleted in adamantly anti-union Delta Air Lines territory, about Congressman Mica’s insistence that a long-term FAA reauthorization bill include a change to the rules governing aviation and rail elections.

Washington National Airport: Events urging members of Congress to put aside partisan politics and pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill took place at Washington National Airport. On September 6, 2011, AFA Members welcomed members of Congress back to work with informational leafleting all day at National Airport

On Wednesday, September 7, a joint press conference with the AFA, the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) and the Allied Pilots (APA) was held at National Airport.

Phoenix: A leafleting event was held at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on August 23.


The House of Representatives took a step forward to averting another partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and passed a 4 month extension of funding for the operations of the FAA. This was a “clean” extension for funding but the long-term bill which passed the House still contains the union-busing provision to repeal the National mediation Board’s new union election rules. The bill also includes a six-month extension of highway and transit programs.

The Senate passed the funding measure later in the week (September 15) despite an effort by Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to put a “hold” on the funding extension bill in order to get a vote on his proposal to eliminate federal spending for bike paths.  The President is expected to sign the funding extension. 

This four-month extension will now give a House and Senate Conference Committee time to work out the remaining differences between the House and Senate FAA bills.  The Senate has already appointed their Conference Committee members but the House still has not appointed members to this committee. 

We still have a lot of work ahead of us to ensure that the union-busting provision overturning fair and democratic union representation elections governed by the National Mediation Board is stripped from the final version of the FAA bill.  This provision, which was inserted by Congressman John Mica (R-FL) Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, is included in the House FAA bill but not the Senate version.

We will also work to ensure that Flight Attendant safety and health provisions and other AFA supported provisions are included in the final version of a long-term FAA reauthorization. 

Thanks to your calls, letters and e-mails to your members of Congress the 22nd extension of funding for the FAA was passed without any extraneous provisions.   


Both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have voted on bills to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA.) 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:

  • An English language proficiency standard (Section 508);
  • 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 (Section 509);
  • A provision for a study of air quality in the aircraft cabin (Section 564); and
  • Human Intervention Management Study (HIMS) program for cabin crews (although funds for this program have already been appropriated, the program needs to be authorized) (Section 702).

Section 509 in the Senate bill clarifies the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The MOU provided a framework for the FAA and OSHA to begin working together to apply certain OSHA standards on sanitation, employee access to medical/exposure records, hazard communication recordkeeping and reporting and anti-discrimination.

The House FAA bill, the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011, H.R. 658, includes 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 notification for pesticide application. The Republican written House bill ignores several Flight Attendant health and safety provisions that are included in the Senate FAA bill and that were included in the FAA bill written in the 111th session of Congress.

The most onerous provision in the House FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 is the Republican written language that overturns a 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 does NOT contain a repeal of these NMB rules.


AFA Council 12 hosted a Government Affairs regional training in their AFA office on Thursday, September 8, 2011. We had 16 enthusiastic participants from United AFA Councils in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago, Continental AFA Council in Newark and four Alaska AFA Council Members, including Local Council President Sandra Morrow from Los Angeles plus Debbie Golombek and Mary Garton, United MEC Government Affairs Committee.

The 10:00AM – 6:00PM training covered AFA structure, the role of Government Affairs Department and Committees, why AFA participates in the process, a history of AFA’s legislative and political actions, basic government 101 and how a bill becomes law, grassroots lobbying, building relationships with legislators and their staff, building a committee and labor and community affairs.

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