United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: April 24, 2013
Type: Report


Good News……. But Our Work Continues

After facing strong opposition from the Flight Attendant community, members of Congress, Federal Air Marshals and Transportation Security Officers, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced it would delay implementation of their new policy that would have let passengers carry knives and some sporting equipment onto planes. The start date of the new Prohibited Items List, which was scheduled to take effect April 25, was pushed forward to “accommodate further input from the Aviation Security Advisory Committee.”

The Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) is made up of key constituencies affected by aviation security requirements including, airline labor (including AFA), airline management, passenger and airport advocate groups and others. It was established to work with the TSA to address issues and develop recommendations for improvements to aviation security methods, equipment and processes.

The manner in which TSA evaluated the policy change to allow knives and other sporting equipment on board the aircraft was flawed, as they failed to ask for input from the ASAC. A change in policy of this magnitude deserved a collaborative approach and should have been accompanied by a thorough outreach to those who would be most impacted. AFA and our partners in the Coalition vehemently rejected TSA’s attempt to make such a sweeping change in their policy without the input of key stakeholders.

TSA’s announcement to postpone the changes to the Prohibited Items List is good news, but we now must redouble our efforts for a legislative solution to make this temporary delay a permanent ban. This issue will remain our number one legislative priority until the ban on knives becomes permanent.

Letter to TSA

Last month, 133 bipartisan U.S. Representatives sent a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole expressing their concern regarding the Administrator’s decision to remove certain knives and sporting equipment from the Prohibited Items List. The letter, complete with signatures, was included in last month’s report. If you would like another copy of the letter, please let us know.

Despite the congressional criticism, Mr. Pistole has made it clear that he stands firm in his decision. In his response to those members of Congress who signed the letter, he claims the policy change to allow certain knives and sporting equipment to be carried onboard is in an effort to “focus the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) more effectively against threats that could result in a catastrophic attack.” He continues in his letter to say “security experts worldwide have concluded that small pocket knives and certain sporting equipment do not pose a security risk that would result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft and the loss of life on board.”

What he failed to mention in his response to Congress, is that the knives manufacturers lobby group, made up of manufacturers like Victorinox Swiss Army and Leatherman Tool group, have been lobbying the TSA for years to put this change in place. In fact, on March 5, 2013, the American Knife and Tool Institute issued a press release announcing their efforts in working closely with TSA to remove knives from the Prohibited Items List.

Congressional Response to TSA Letter

On April 9, 2013, House Committee on Homeland Security Ranking Member Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and committee members Cedric Richmond (D-LA) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) sent a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole reiterating their concerns that proper procedures and protocols were not followed when TSA announced their change to the Prohibited Items List. This letter followed the response from Mr. Pistole to the bipartisan sign-on letter coordinated by Representatives Eric Swalwell (D-CA) Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Bennie Thompson (D-MS).

White House Petition

On April 5, our petition to the White House expired. The website www.NoKnivesOnPlanes.com has been redirected to a resource center for continuing our campaign to permanently ban knives from being allowed in the aircraft cabin. Our legislative strategy now takes center stage.

The No Knives Act

Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) introduced the No Knives Act, H.R. 1093 on March 12, which would prohibit passengers from carrying onboard an aircraft any item that was on the Prohibited Items List as of March 1, 2013. Thanks to our continued lobby efforts the bill has 43 bipartisan cosponsors but we will now need to work even harder to build this cosponsor list.

If your U.S. Representative is not a cosponsor (you can check at http://thomas.loc.gov ) please call their office.

We continue to work with Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) on legislation to permanently keep knives off airplanes. Please continue your calls to both of your Senators urging them to support legislation that would ensure a permanent ban on knives on planes.

Congressional Hearing

On April 11, the House Committee on Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee held a hearing titled “TSA’s Efforts to Advance Risk-Based Security: Stakeholder Perspectives.” Those invited by the Republican Committee Leadership to testify at the hearing included representatives from the International Air Transport Association, Airlines For America, U.S. Travel Association, Express Association, and the Association of Airport Executives. David Borer, General Counsel, American Federation of Government Employee’s was the one panel member Committee Democrats were allowed to invite.

Although it was disappointing that no Flight Attendants were invited to testify, the strong presence of Flight Attendants in uniform at this hearing helped keep the focus on the reckless policy change to allow knives back in the aircraft cabin. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) recognized our presence in the hearing room and expressed how much we have at stake. She thanked us for our continued efforts in this fight.

There was a clear consensus from the members of the panel that key constituencies affected by aviation security were not consulted before the TSA announced the change to their Prohibited Items List. Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS) expressed “deep frustration with TSA’s failure to formally engage the stakeholders impacted by the decision, such as Flight Attendants.”

Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA) entered the written testimony from AFA and APFA into the official transcript of the hearing. In a press release issued the day after the hearing, Representative Swalwell remained stunned by TSA’s misguided and unfounded new policy.

House Resolution

Following the April 11 hearing, Representatives Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) introduced a sense of Congress resolution, House Resolution 1456, calling on Congress to delay implementation of changes to the Prohibited Items List.

April 1 Airport Leafleting

Leafleting events around the country on April 1, 2013, April Fool’s Day, highlighted TSA’s foolish decision to allow knives back onboard the aircraft and generated extensive media coverage. AFA Council 12 hosted a press conference and rally where invited speakers Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Janice Hahn (D-CA) expressed their support for our efforts to keep knives off planes.

April 23 DCA Fly-In Rally and Press Conference

On April 23, the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions hosted a press conference and rally at Washington National Airport to let the public know that we remain committed to keeping knives off planes. All AFA Local Councils and Master Executive Councils were asked to send a representative to this rally.


The AFA Communications Department has developed a Coalition website for our joint No Knives campaign, with comprehensive up-to-date information about events to attend and actions you can take at www.NoKnivesOnPlanes.com



Starting Sunday, April 21, almost all of the 47,000 workers at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began facing sequester related unpaid furloughs. With fewer air traffic controllers on the job, the FAA is warning passengers and air carriers to expect delays at major airports.

In order not to compromise safety, the FAA is implementing air traffic management initiatives at airports around the country. These initiatives include increasing the distance between aircraft in flight, using more circuitous routes between destination points and in some instances delaying aircraft on the ground.

Long wait times at security have been averted for now because Congress included additional money for security officers in a budget bill for the remainder of the 2013 Fiscal Year. However the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has cut the Crew Member Self Defense Training (CMSDT) program as part of their sequestration process. The training has been suspended in its entirety, as of April 1, 2013.

Abu Dhabi Pre Clearance Security

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced plans to enter into a reimbursement agreement with the government of the United Arab Emirates to provide preclearance U.S. national security services at Abu Dhabi International Airport. This agreement sets a dangerous and unauthorized precedent which will have an adverse effect on the U.S. airline industry.

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA responded in conjunction with a coalition of Union, management, airport and passenger groups by sending a letter asking members of Congress to sign-on to a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano urging her to abandon this agreement.

Inflexible Comp Time

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed a bill on a partisan vote that would force working families to make an unnecessary choice between overtime they rely on and time off they need. The misleadingly titled Working Families Flexibility Act of 2013, H.R. 1406, would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow employer controlled compensatory time off to be substituted for paid overtime. Employees would have less flexibility because the employer would determine when comp time can be used.

Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA)

Bipartisan coalitions in the Senate and House introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) to prohibit job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Senate bill is sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). In the House, Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) have introduced a companion bill.

The legislation would prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against those employed or seeking employment, on the basis of their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity. Such protections are already in place prohibiting discrimination based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability.

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