United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: March 25, 2013
Type: Report


On March 5, the Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) John Pistole announced that their prohibitive item list would be modified on April 25 to allow passengers to carry knives less than 2.36 inches and certain types of sporting equipment onboard the aircraft.  This senseless policy change is intended to align U.S. regulation more closely with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards and to make flying more convenient for passengers. 

For the safety and security of the traveling public, the TSA has prohibited small knives from being brought aboard airplanes since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA following the horrific events of 9/11.  There is no excuse for the reversal of this policy. Multi-layered security ensures U.S. aviation is the safest in the world and the ban on dangerous objects is integral to that safety. 

AFA and the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions announced opposition to the TSA's decision immediately following the Administrator's announcement.  The policy change does not make sense for combating potential terrorist attacks nor the daily disturbances Flight Attendants handle on a daily basis.  Introducing knives into the aircraft cabin will only hinder our ability to de-escalate conflicts or ask passengers to help us contain certain problems. 

Our momentum to reverse the TSA decision continues to build in our public and legislative campaigns.   The Government Affairs Committee, along with our Safety, Health and Security Committee, Communications Committee and membership Engagement Committee as well as CWA and all the departments at the International Office are working together on this issue. 

At a Congressional hearing of the House Committee on Homeland Security this month, TSA Administrator John Pistole dug his heels in and reemphasized his support for the changes to the prohibited items list.  So we now know it will take action by the President or an act of Congress to get this policy change reversed. 

Petition To White House    April 4 Deadline

Our petition to the White House at www.afacwa.org/NoKnivesOnPlanes  continues to gain signatures but it will take over 3700 signatures a day to reach the required 100,000 signatures by our April 4 deadline. 

Please remember that when sending e-mail encouraging your friends and family to sign the petition DO NOT use the word KNIVES in the subject line. 

Congressional Sign-On Letter to TSA

The bipartisan letter authored by Representatives Eric Swalwell (D-CA) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) was sent to TSA Administrator with 133 signatures last week.  Thanks to our hard work and the relationships we have established/ and are building on Capitol Hill we were able to achieve significant results for this letter in the very short period of time we had to secure support.  

There has rarely been an issue that is uniting Flight Attendants, both active and retired, the way that this issue has.  The Government Affairs Committee has received numerous calls from Flight Attendants on "who do I call to stop knives from coming onboard airplanes." 

The No Knives Act

Our attention now turns to building the cosponsor list for the bipartisan No Knives Act, H.R. 1093, introduced by Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Michael Grimm (R-NY).   This legislation would reverse the TSA's decision to allow passengers to bring knives and other items aboard a passenger aircraft. 

It will take a concerted effort by each of us to help build bipartisan support for this bill.

Call your U.S. Representative and ask to be connected to the staff person in the office who handles homeland security issues. 

  • Ask your Representative to cosponsor the No Knives Act. 
  • Use the talking points
  • Use personal examples of what this policy change means to you.  
  • Thank the office if they signed the Swalwell/Grimm letter
  • Follow-up with an e-mail
  • Follow-up again with any new information
  • Follow-up again before the policy change goes into effect

Please keep in mind that it is easier to get a signature on a letter.  You will need to be more persistent to get your U.S. Representative to cosponsor the No Knives Act.

Postcards to Congress

To help build support for the No Knives Act, the AFA Communications Department has designed postcards urging our U.S. Representatives to cosponsor the No Knives Act, H.R. 1093.  A supply of postcards has been sent to all AFA Local Councils. 

The postcard should be signed by the Flight Attendant with their address clearly printed on the postcard.  These signed postcards should then be mailed back to the International Office before April 15 so they can be distributed to the appropriate Congressional offices.  These postcards are for our U.S. Representative and not our U.S. Senators, as they are specific to the No Knives Act that, to date has only been introduced in the House.  

Airport Leafleting

Flight Attendants at airports around the system have been leafleting our passengers to enlist their support in our effort to stop the TSA from allowing knives in the aircraft cabin.  The United AFA Membership Engagement Committee will be organizing a system-wide day of action for Monday April 1, in support of the No Knives on Planes campaign. 

Bi-Partisan Budget Amendment to Keep Knives Off Airplanes

After numerous visits and grassroots lobby efforts, U.S. Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced an amendment to the Senate budget resolution prohibiting the TSA from allowing passengers to carry small knives onto airplanes.

Unfortunately, there was very limited time allotted for votes on over 600 amendments to the Senate budget.  However, this further illustrates the momentum we are building and shows that we have bipartisan support in the Senate.  

Congressional In-District Office Visits

From March 25 – April 8, Members of Congress will be home in their districts.  This is a great opportunity to schedule local in-district meetings with members of Congress to discuss the urgency of keeping knives off the aircraft and urging the member of Congress to cosponsor the No Knives Act.  Local Council Government Affairs Committees should, at the very least, schedule a meeting with your Council's Adopted-Member-of-Congress and bring a group of two to four (or more) Flight Attendants with you including Local Council leadership.  

Developing a friendly relationship with the staff of your U.S. Representatives' home office and your Adopted-Member-of-Congress and maintaining contact with these offices ensures that our legislators are not just hearing from the airlines and their lobby group, the Airlines For America (A4A). 

By visiting our elected representatives, we are:

  • Establishing new relationships or building old ones and cultivating access in Congress
  • Explaining our efforts to reverse the TSA policy to allow knives aboard aircraft and the urgency of our campaign
  • Educating  members of Congress about our role as First Responders and Onboard Safety Professionals
  • Advocating for the No Knives Act and urging co-sponsorship of the legislation


Letters to the Editor are a great way to get the word out about the No Knives Act and encourage the public to sign the petition to the White House.  Not only are they one of the most widely read sections of any newspapers; they are closely monitored by legislators as a way to gauge public opinion. 


Take a moment to register on www. Popvox.com to add your support for the No Knives Act. 

POPVOX is an online tool that enables citizens and organizations to publically weigh in on specific legislation before Congress.  This non-partisan website ensures that when a citizen or organization takes a position publically on a bill, that position will be displayed to Members of Congress and their staff. 

Movement Building

Government Affairs Committee members and Local  Councils have been contacting their Central Labor Council, State AFL-CIO and  Airport Coalition groups to ask them for assistance with spreading the message and promoting the petition and calls to Congress.    


Violence Against Women Reauthorization of 2013 Act (VAWA)

President Obama signed a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) after a successful grassroots effort to bring the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote.   The reauthorization passed   with bipartisan support in the Senate and then after several unsuccessful attempts to weaken the language, the bill was approved the in House.  The approval of an expanded VAWA ended a year-long effort to renew the legislation which provides federal funding for programs aiding the prosecutions of domestic and sexual violence cases. 

The reauthorization represents a victory over extremism and partisan politics.  The new VAWA addresses the ongoing problem of domestic violence and for the first time expands protections  to members of the lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LBGT) community and Native Americans. 

AFA helped spearhead the implementation of VAWA in the early 1990's. Since then, this landmark legislation has brought offenders to justice, kept victims safe and reduced reported cases of domestic violence in the United States by 64 percent.  Passage of the VAWA reauthorization will reduce the incidence of these assaults even more. 


Over 300,000 labor, progressive and community activists joined forces for a National Day of Action to Repeal the Sequester.  Protests were held across the country with thousands of concerned citizens speaking up against the devastating impacts of the sequester.  As part of the day of action, working families called on Congress to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts and to close the tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest 2 percent.  

Representative John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the "Cancel the Sequester Act of 2013" to eliminate the across the board budget cuts, known as sequestration, that were required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.   AFA joined with hundreds of national and state organizations in signing a letter to the House and Senate leadership urging Congress to act promptly to repeal sequestration. 

The Crew Member Self Defense Training Program was one of the first causalities of the sequestration process.  This voluntary training program which was mandated by Congress in lieu of mandatory Flight Attendant security training will be suspended in its entirety effective April 1, 2013. 

Affordable Care Act

This month marks three years since passage of the Affordable care Act. This landmark legislation is already making a difference to millions of women, men and children and slowing the growth of health care costs throughout the nation's healthcare system by dramatically reducing fraud and waste.    

Children with pre-existing conditions can no longer be denied care and young adults can stay on their parents' health insurance plans until age 26.  The health care law now guarantees preventative care including mammograms, free screenings for breast and cervical cancer and immunizations for children,  The law also helps ease the burden of high cost prescription drugs so senior citizens do not skimp on their medications. 
Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) 

The Supreme Court will begin to hear arguments on whether the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) should be overturned.  Across the country, the attitudes of millions of Americans have changed and several states have acted to guarantee the freedom to marry for same-sex couples.  Even President Clinton, who signed DOMA into law, is now calling on the Supreme Court to call it unconstitutional.   


Illinois Special Election  

The 2nd Congressional District of Illinois will hold a special election for the U.S. House of Representatives on April 9, 2013, following the resignation of Representative Jesse Jackson, Jr. 

Robin Kelly, former Cook County Administrator, won the Democratic Primary Election on February 26, 2013.  She will face Republican Primary Election winner Paul McKinley, in this heavily democratic district. 

Department of Labor 

President Obama has announced the nomination of Thomas E. Perez to be the next secretary of labor.  Mr. Perez currently serves as the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka believes that "working men and women will be well served by President Obama's choice of Tom Perez to lead the Department of Labor." 

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