United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: February 27, 2013
Type: Report


On March 1, 2013, a sweeping package of federal budget cuts is scheduled to take effect.  These spending cuts, also known as "sequestration" are required as part of the Budget Control Act, negotiated in the summer of 2011, in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. 

The idea was to schedule automatic cuts for the future that were so bad that Congress would be forced to come to agreement on a sensible approach to reduce federal spending and close wasteful tax loopholes.  Unfortunately, some members of Congress indicated they were unwilling to stop sequestration, unless there were deep benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicare, while other were unwilling to have American families shoulder the entire burden of deficit reduction.  

These cuts could have real implications for our nation's aviation system, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP).   Due to a lag time in the budget process and scheduling we may not experience the full impact of these cuts on aviation related services until April at the earliest.  While no one knows the exact nature of the cuts that will be made, it is important that we be aware of the potential impact sequestration may have.  We should be prepared for increased wait times at security check points and customs.    

Our Union is working to promote a responsible budgeting resolution that supports a safe and robust aviation system and a healthy economy for our nation.  We are calling on Congress to use common sense and work in a bipartisan manner while debating the financial health of our nation. 


The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA Political Legislative Policy Committee met in Chicago during the AFA Board of Directors meeting to set our Union's legislative agenda for the 113th Congress.  The Committee discussed a host of issues which will remain on our agenda and then identified key priorities.  A continued ban on cell phone use while airborne and comprehensive, mandatory Flight Attendant security (counterterrorism) training were two issues identified for our first grassroots actions.   

In-Flight Cell Phone Ban   The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct a study on the impact of the airborne use of cell phones for voice communications by reviewing the policies of foreign governments and foreign air carriers that allow cell phone use.  Currently, in the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) prohibits the use of cell phones while airborne.   

While this FAA study did not advocate any change to existing U.S. policy, any future rulemaking related to airborne cell phone use will consider this study.  AFA's position on cell phone use during flight has been very clear.  We want to continue the ban on cell phone use as well as Voice Over Internet Protocol (Skype type communications) during flight.  

Flight Attendant Security Training   It is indefensible that 11 years after the horrific events of September 11, adequate and comprehensive, industry-wide counterterrorism training is still not mandated for Flight Attendants.   AFA will work with the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees to ensure that an amendment addressing this long overdue Flight Attendant security training is included in upcoming legislation to authorize the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Authorization bill.

Flight Attendant Fatigue     While the Policy Committee discussed the importance of a reintroducing legislation urging the FAA to form an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC) to recommend a scientifically based approach to Flight Attendant fatigue, several impediments were identified.   Our champion on this issue former Representative Mazie Hirono (D-HI) was elected to the United States Senate.  That is the good news.  Unfortunately for us, Senator Hirono does not serve on any Senate Committees that would be beneficial to holding hearings on Flight Attendant fatigue.  

AFA will be exploring other potential "champions" to reintroduce this legislation. We will also be exploring other avenues to implement the recommendations of the Flight Attendant fatigue studies completed by the Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI).  AFA is not seeking, nor did the legislation introduced in the last Congress contain any language that would limit or cap Flight Attendant flying.  

Bankruptcy Reform   AFA will continue to work with Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Representative John Conyers (D-MI) on reintroduction of legislation designed to level the playing field so that bankruptcy can no longer be used as a business model to destroy collective bargaining agreements.  

Foreign Ownership, Cabotage and Safeguarding Flight Attendant Jobs    Foreign ownership and control rules, and prohibitions against foreign carriers engaging in cabotage, have protected U.S. aviation workers against unfair competition, preserved basic labor rights and ensured a strong and vibrant U.S. aviation industry.   The European Union (EU) is actively pushing to relax U.S. foreign ownership and control rules and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is seeking to expand its reach into economic regulations. 

It is imperative that we remain vigilant in opposing international efforts to undermine U.S. ownership and control rules for U.S. airlines and in opposing liberalizing and expanding free trade agreements to include air transport services.     

Violence Against Women (VAWA)   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. 

For the first time in its history, VAWA's authorization failed to make it through the last Congress.  Rather than renew VAWA, Congress 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).

After pressure from both Democrats and Republicans the House leadership has scheduled a vote on the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (S.47) for February 27th or 28th. 

Our legislative agenda also includes continued work on OSHA standards; cabin air quality; cabin temperature standards; child restraint seats; aircraft security sweeps performed by Flight Attendants; repeal of the defense of marriage act; money in politics; immigration reform; and any other issue that may be identified as having an impact on Flight Attendants, the aviation industry or the labor community. 


During our January United AFA Government Affairs Committee Conference call we decided to resurrect the Adopt-A-Member of Congress program which was designed to establish, re-establish and solidify a Local Council's relationship with a key member of Congress.  The original Adopt-A-Member-of-Congress program was developed by AFA's Government Affairs Department in 1995 to help specific members of Congress learn about issues affecting Flight Attendants' health, safety and security, our unique work environment and our role as onboard safety professionals. 

Every United AFA Local Council, even those in our International locations, will be assigned a member of Congress who may be in a position to have influence on issues important to us.  They may sit on a key committee, be in a leadership position or represent an area near your domicile.  Some of these Representatives are newly elected to Congress, some have been supportive of our issues and some have not, but we are hopeful that through this program we can strengthen our relationships with crucial lawmakers.  In turn, when these legislators are faced with questions on aviation issues, they know they can contact our Local Councils and/or our Local Council Government Affairs Committees. 

The following is the United AFA MEC's Adopted Member list by Council:

Council 5                              Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY)
Council 7                              Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC)
Council 8                              Rep. Cheri Bustos (IL)

Council 9                              Rep.  Jared Polis (CO)

Council 10                            Rep. Rick Larsen (WA)

Council 11                            Rep. Eric Swalwell (CA)

Council 12                            Rep. Janice Hahn (CA)

Council 14                            Rep. Tulsi Gabbard  (HI)

Council 20                            Rep. Corrine Brown (FL)

Council 21                            Rep. Donna Edwards (MD)

Council 25                            Rep Dina Titus (NV)

Council 26                            Rep. Jackie Speier (CA)

Council 27                            Rep. Michael Capuano (MA)

Council 38                            Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (CA)

Council 42                            Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)


Local Councils will be providing their Local Council membership with more  information about this program soon. 

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