United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: July 26, 2013
Type: Report

Permanent Ban on Knives

Last month, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the Department of Homeland Security funding bill that prohibits any funds in the bill from being used by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to implement changes to the list of prohibited carry-on items for air travel.  The bipartisan amendment was introduced by Representatives Michael Grimm (R-NY), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tom Reed (R-NY),  Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Paul Cook (R-CA) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). 

While this amendment and vote were largely symbolic, this was another example of the importance of establishing and building relationships with Congressional offices at home as well as in Washington, D.C.   The various contacts we made with Congressional offices immediately following the TSA announcement to allow knives back on airplanes helped to propel our concerns into the national spotlight.  Our campaign to Keep Our Cabins Safe illustrates that when we supplement our traditional Washington lobbying efforts with grassroots lobbying through our Local Councils, we strengthen the impact that AFA Members can have on the legislative process.    

Our collective voice was heard loud and clear around the country in our advocacy to stop the TSA from administering proposed changes to the aircraft carry-on Prohibited Items List.  TSA Administrator John Pistole's decision to reverse the TSA proposal to allow knives back onboard the aircraft for the first time since 9/11 was brought about through our collective action.  Unfortunately, our work is not done.    The TSA has the ability to reverse course again.  The only way we can guarantee that knives will never be allowed back onboard our aircraft is through a permanent legislative ban. 

Legislation Introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives

In March, 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 Transportation Security Administration's (TSA) Prohibited Items List as of March 1, 2013.  Thanks to our In-District and Washington, D.C. lobby visits, our phone calls, the hundreds of postcards and letters that were sent and the local rallies and press conferences with members of Congress we organized, the bill has 64 cosponsors.

As you may know, Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey ran for and won, the Senate seat vacated by John Kerry.   Newly elected Senator Markey was sworn into office on Tuesday, July 16, 2013.  We look forward to his continued advocacy, as a new member of the U.S. Senate, to help in our legislative efforts to keep knives out of the aircraft cabin permanently.  

Legislation Introduced in the U.S. Senate

Our coordinated grassroots lobby efforts urging members of the Senate to introduce legislation to keep knives out of the aircraft cabin permanently led to New York and New Jersey Senators Charles Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Robert Menendez and the late Frank Lautenberg  to introduce the Keep Knives Out of Our Skies Act, S. 1008.   Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)  joined the NY and NJ Democrats as an original sponsor making this bipartisan legislation. 

The only way to move legislation in this Congress is to have a full nonpartisan support.  We will first focus on gaining Republican cosponsors for S. 1008.  Our target list includes some Republican Senators who sit on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, as well as Republican Senators from States where AFA has a large population of Members. These Senators and their Legislative Assistants who handle transportation/aviation issues are as follows:

Senator's Name                               Capitol Hill Office Phone                            Legislative Staffer
Roger Wicker (MS)                          202.224.6253                                                      Greg Orlando                                    
Marco Rubio (FL)                              202.224.3041                                                      Darren Archord
Kelly Ayotte (NH)                             202.224.3324                                                      Emily P. Lynch
Dean Heller (NV)                              202.224.6244                                                      Scott Ripinger
Dan Coats (IN)                                   202.224.5623                                                      Cory Palmer
Ron Johnson (WI)                            202.224.5323                                                      Meris Petek      
Ted Cruz (TX)                                     202.224.5922                                                      Jeff Murray
Mark Kirk (IL)                                     202.224.2854                                                      Sarah Walter
Jeff Chiesa (NJ)                                 202.224.3224                                                      Krista Powers
Patrick Toomey (PA)                       202.224.4254                                                      Elizabeth Anderson                        


Hello.  My name is _______________ and I am a constituent and a Flight Attendant.  I am calling to ask the Senator to support legislation to help keep our aircraft cabins safe by keeping knives off the airplane permanently.  I applaud the TSA for abandoning their proposal to allow knives back onboard the aircraft but a permanent ban must be put in place. 

I urge Senator _____________ to cosponsor the Keep Knives Out of Our Skies Act, Senate Bill 1008.  Thank you.   


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.   The bill currently has 22 bipartisan cosponsors. 

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.   H.R. 1745 has 3 cosponsors. 

AFA is fully committed to and has repeatedly supported multilayered approaches to making our skies safer including measures like reinforced cockpit doors, secondary barriers and enhanced self-defense and situational awareness training for Flight Attendants. 

While Congress has repeatedly recognized the need for Flight Attendant self-defense training, our efforts have been thwarted by certain airlines.  In a last minute revision to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2003, the wording in a provision for basic, mandated self-defense security training was changed from the TSA "shall" issue these guidelines to the TSA "may" issue these guidelines.  By changing this one word, the Congressional mandate to issue industry-wide guidelines was eliminated. 

It was no consolation for Flight Attendants that the former Member of Congress from Texas, who denied Flight Attendants mandatory, comprehensive security training, was later convicted of money laundering and conspiracy charges related to illegal finance activities. 

Crewmember situational awareness and appropriate crew-based training programs are essential factors in the success of a multilayered approach to aviation security.  AFA remains committed to full implementation of secondary barrier systems combined with self-defense and situation awareness training for crewmembers and fatigue awareness recognition for Flight Attendants.   


Legislation that would provide protections against workplace discrimination on the basis of actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity has been reintroduced in both chambers of Congress.  The legislation extends the same federal employment discrimination protections that are currently provided on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability. 

AFA has been part of a coalition of labor, business, human and civil rights, religious and community organizations that have been lobbying for passage of this legislation since it was first introduced in 1993.  Since then, employment non-discrimination legislation has been introduced in every Congress with bipartisan support, but has never reached enough votes for passage.

In the Senate, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), S. 815, was introduced by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). S. 815 now has 53 cosponsors. 

A companion bill, H.R. 1755, was introduced in the House by Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).  Before the introduction of the House bill, ENDA coalition partners were asked to reach out to House offices for original cosponsors.  H.R. 1755 was introduced on April 25, 2013, with more than 150 bipartisan House cosponsors. 

On July 10, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) took a huge step forward by voting to send ENDA legislation to the full Senate for a vote.  The HELP Committee approved the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, S. 815, by a strong bipartisan vote of 15-7, making it the first time a congressional committee marked up legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity. 

We applaud the Senate HELP Committee for this historic vote.  AFA will continue to work with our coalition partners for passage of these long overdue workplace protections. 

One year following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, in an unusual show of nonpartisan Congressional solidarity, the Flight 93 National Memorial Act was passed. This legislation designated the crash site of United Flight 93, near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as a national memorial and appointed the National Park Service as its steward. 

In 2009, ground was broken for the first phase of the Flight 93 National Memorial to honor the extraordinary heroism of the crew and passengers of Flight 93.  The Flight 93 Memorial officially opened to the public on September 10, 2010 and when completed it will be the only unit of the National Park system dedicated to the events of September 11, 2001. 

The Flight 93 National Memorial still needs to meet its ultimate fundraising goal in order to be completed.  The Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions has made the final phase of fundraising for this Memorial a priority. The Coalition has drafted a joint letter seeking personal contributions from members of Congress.  The letter to members of Congress will be delivered and Flight Attendants will be encouraged to contact their members of Congress in support of this fundraising drive. 


Department of Homeland Security:  Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced she will be leaving her Cabinet post in September to become the president of the University of California system.   Although a number of names have been mentioned to replace Napolitano, President Obama has made no announcement as of the date of this report.

National Labor Relations Board:  Thanks to the phone calls we helped to generate, the National labor Relations Board (NLRB) should be fully functioning by Labor Day.  An agreement was reached in the Senate that avoided Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) from changing the Senate rules. 

Two of President Obama's nominees to the NLRB will be replaced with new nominations.  A full slate of all 5 nominees to the NLRB should receive a vote on the Senate floor before recess. 

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