United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: January 30, 2013
Type: Report


Eighty-four new freshman members of the House of Representatives and 14 new Senators took office on January 3, 2013. The Republicans still control the House of Representatives with 232 Republicans, 200 Democrats and two vacancies.  Forty-two democrats and thirty-two Republicans make up the freshman class. 

The Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate with 53 Democrats, 2 Independents (who caucus with the Democrats) and 45 Republicans.  Thirty-four Senators start new terms including 9 newly elected Democrats, 3 newly elected Republicans and Republican appointee Tim Scott (SC). 

It is exciting to have so many newly elected members of Congress, especially in California and Illinois where we have so many United Flight Attendants.  It will be our job to make sure these new legislators recognize our work as onboard safety professionals and first responders. 


In 1975, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) determined that its authority to promote the safety of civil aircraft operations included occupational safety and health for aircraft crewmembers, thereby acquiring exclusive jurisdiction over Flight Attendant health and safety onboard the aircraft.  Since that time, the FAA has failed to apply occupational safety and health rules to the Flight Attendant workforce. 

Our efforts to secure OSHA coverage for Flight Attendants began in 1990 when AFA filed a petition with the FAA that asked the agency to adopt selected OSHA safety regulations.  Since then AFA has pursued legal and regulatory solutions to extend OSHA safety and health protections to Flight Attendants.  It was through our persistence that we succeeded in ensuring OSHA standards were included as part of the FAA reauthorization bill, including fighting back against a proposal by Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to strip the OSHA provision from the FAA bill.   Our aggressive lobby effort kept the Paul Amendment from moving forward as the senate was debating the bill.

The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FAA reauthorization) requires the FAA to initiate development of a policy statement on the circumstances where OSHA may be applied to Flight Attendants while working onboard an aircraft.  Since this would change the extent of FAA's jurisdiction over Flight Attendants, a policy that has been in effect for over 37 years, the FAA gave interested parties the opportunity to comment. 

The comment period was set to close on January 7, 2013, but, the airline industry requested a six week extension.  The FAA felt a six week extension for comments was too long, but provided an additional three weeks and the comment period closed January 22, 2013.  As we expected, the airline industry lobby group, A4A, filed strong objections to any policy change providing Flight Attendants with OSHA protections. 


AFA-CWA's Political Legislative Policy Committee will be meeting in February at the AFA-CWA Board of Directors meeting in Chicago to discuss AFA's legislative priorities and political programs for the 113th Congress.  The Policy Committee is one of the continuing committees of the AFA Board of Directors and is charged with studying matters relating to AFA's political and legislative program, coordinating FlightPAC activities and assisting in communicating and implementing AFA's legislative agenda. 


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) reached an "agreement" on Senate rules reform.  There are some benefits to the agreement and it is significant that in over 200 years the Senate has only made changes to the way it does business a handful of times.  However, it does not go far enough to deliver meaningful change, transparency and accountability. 
The beneficial components will improve nominations and speed up the process in which bills move through the chamber by reducing debate time.  On executive nominations, debate was reduced from 30 hours to 8 and district court nominations will be reduced to two hours of debate. 


CWA President Larry Cohen held a webinar this month to discuss building a political movement for democracy and economic justice.  CWA has identified four blocks to democracy.  They are:

  • Money in politics;
  • Broken Senate rules;
  • No path to citizenship for immigrants; and
  • Voter suppression. 

In collaboration with their coalition partners, CWA hopes to build a movement of 50 million strong to break through these blocks to real democracy in this country to help build a better future for all working families. 


Earlier this month, the District of Columbia (DC) Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that President Obama exceeded his constitutional authority by making recess appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) while the Senate was on a holiday break.  The NLRB had only two members and was unable to take any official action.  Some Republicans worried that the Board under an Obama Administration would be too pro-union and kept a "hold" on the President's nominations to the NLRB.

Although Presidents have been making recess appointment for decades, the Circuit Court ruled that the pro forma sessions taking place every 3 days during the 3 weeks between the end of the first session of the 112th Congress and the start of the second session were sufficient to qualify the Senate as not being in recess.  

If the ruling stands it could mean dismissal or do-overs for hundreds of decisions issued by the NLRB in the past year. 


Department of Labor Secretary, and our good friend, Hilda Solis, resigned from her position on January 22, 2013.  Secretary Solis was an incredible advocate for working women and men and had worked with AFA on a number of issues including OSHA for Flight Attendants

Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the only Republican still in the President's first-term Cabinet, announced his plans to leave the Administration.  The former Representative from Illinois headed the Department throughout Obama's first term and pushed for greater safety in aviation and on highways. 

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