United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: June 26, 2013
Type: Report


As we all know, on June 5, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced their decision to rescind their proposed changes to the Prohibited Items List that would have allowed knives and other sporting equipment to be carried onboard planes.  We applaud TSA Administrator John Pistole for this common sense decision but our work is not yet finished.  The only way we can guarantee that knives will never be allowed back onboard the aircraft is through a permanent legislative ban. 

We now have legislation in both the U.S. House of Representatives (the House) and in the U.S. Senate (the Senate) which would prohibit passengers from carrying knives onboard passenger aircraft.   In the House, Representatives Ed Markey (D-MA) and Michael Grimm (R-NY) introduced the No Knives Act, H.R. 1093, which would prohibit passengers from carrying onboard an aircraft any item that was on the Prohibited Items List as of March 1, 2013.  The bill has 63 bipartisan cosponsors. 

In the Senate, Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and the late Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced the Keep Knives Out of Our Skies Act, S. 1008.   The bill would prohibit the Secretary of Homeland Security from implementing any changes to the TSA's Prohibited Items List that would permit passengers to carry knives onboard aircraft.  Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) cosponsored S. 1008, making it bipartisan legislation.    There are no new Senate cosponsors.  


Representative Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) has introduced legislation to require secondary cockpit safety barriers on all Part 121 airliners.  The Saracini Aviation Safety Act, H.R. 1775, was introduced in honor of Victor Saracini, Captain of United 175.  Representative Fitzpatrick became interested in this issue when he learned that United was removing secondary barriers from its Boeing 787's. 

A related bill, introduced by Representatives Steve Israel (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) directs the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to issue regulations to require the installation of secondary barriers. 


In early July, the United States and the European Union (EU) will begin formal negotiations on a free trade agreement known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP).  This free trade agreement will "seek  improved market access on trade in services and more."       

What makes upcoming negotiations on the T-TIP so troubling for aviation workers is the EU's insistence on including air traffic rights in the agreement as part of their continued efforts to open up the U.S. domestic market to cabotage and to increase the level of allowable foreign ownership and control of U.S. airlines.   

Representatives Mike Michaud (D-ME), Walter Jones (R-NC), Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Bill Foster (D-IL) have circulated a letter to their colleagues which asks the United States Trade  Representative to inform the EU that air traffic rights will not be included in the T-TIP negotiations.  Air traffic rights have been negotiated by the Department of State and Department of Transportation for over 20 years and not one American business or federal agency has expressed an interest in including air traffic rights within the T-TIP negotiations. 


As we reported in April, AFA joined other industry stakeholders in opposing the Department of Homeland Security's intent to create a U.S. Customs and Border Protection preclearance facility at the Abu Dhabi International Airport.  The idea of building a facility and staffing it with U.S. government security officers in a foreign country where no U.S. airline flies is poor policy and a bad use of taxpayer dollars.   The U.S. House of Representatives agrees with us.

Last week, the House passed an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would require the federal government to consider competitiveness and security issues when entering into reimbursement agreements with foreign governments for customs staff at preclearance facilities.  As no U.S. carrier provides service to Abu Dhabi, a preclearance facility there would only benefit Etihad Airways, giving the airline a significant advantage over U.S. airlines. 


Under a law signed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, the state has expanded the circle of family members for whom Colorado employees are entitled to take leave from work under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.  The law states that an employee in Colorado is entitled to leave to care for a person who has a serious health condition (as defined by federal FMLA) if the person is the employee's partner in a civil union or is the employee's registered domestic partner. 


Earlier this year, the Democratic majority in the Senate had a chance to reform the Senate rules to ensure that the President's nominees receive a fair up-or-down vote.  They did not do it.  Now, workers covered under the National Labor Relations Act have no legal protections provided under the law because of the Senate's reluctance to confirm the five members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  Currently, there is only one confirmed NLRB member. 
For weeks, corporations have been lobbying Senate Republicans to use silent filibusters to obstruct a vote on the President's nominees.  Corporate interests would like nothing better than a split NLRB – two Republicans and two Democrats.  This outcome would be just as bad as having no Board at all.

A fully functioning NLRB should have five members.  Democrats in the Senate cannot "compromise" with Republicans to get a vote by agreeing to only confirm four of the nominees.  We can all help to prevent this from happening.  Please take the time to call your two Senators to say "Give Us Five Members of the National Labor Relations Board." 

Sample Phone Script:

"I am calling to urge the Senator to support confirmation of all 5 bipartisan nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.  Their confirmation is urgent so that workers can continue to have a voice and protections in the workplace.  If Republicans block their confirmation, the Senator must support reforming the Senate rules to ensure their confirmation in order to ensure that we have functioning labor law in this country."

If we do not let our Senators know that the NLRB matters, we all lose. If we sit and watch from the sidelines as political corporate interests dismantle the NLRB, the National Railway Labor Board will be next.  This struggle is our struggle, so please make your calls today. 

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