United MEC Government Affairs Committee Update

Date: October 16, 2013
Type: Report

After 16 days of holding the government hostage, Republican Tea Party extremists were dealt a setback when Senate Leaders reached a deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling.  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) cleared the way for the Senate measure by agreeing to a "clean" vote on the House floor, which ensured easy passage with support from both Democrats and Republicans.  

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will now return to its normal rulemaking process and we can expect to hear of a decision regarding the use of personal electronic devices soon.   The White House web site "We The People" should also be back to full operation soon. 

Millions of Americans made calls to their members of Congress and signed petitions urging Congress to end the gridlock that has produced the most divided Congress in history.   Now it is time to thank those in Washington who remained level-headed and stood firm against the extremists who shut down the government simply because they dislike one law.   Shame on them and the corporate dollars that sent them to Washington! 


OSHA Victory  

After more than 20 years of AFA advocacy, the Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a final policy for improving our workplace safety and health.  This enormous achievement was due in part to the tireless work and persistent lobby efforts of our Government Affairs Committee activists. 

Through the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Congress required the FAA to develop a Policy Statement to outline the circumstances in which OSHA requirements could apply to Flight Attendants while working onboard aircraft.  This legislative language solidified the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by FAA and OSHA during the Clinton Administration. 

The Policy Statement took effect on September 26, 2013, and OSHA will begin enforcement activities at the end of March 2014.  While the FAA' aviation safety regulations take precedence, OSHA will be able to enforce cabin safety issues that fall under their jurisdiction such as hazard communications, bloodborne pathogens and noise and hearing conservation.  These standards require that airlines develop written plans and provide training to crew. 

The occupational safety and health standards currently in effect include recordkeeping, access to employee exposure and medical records, and anti-discriminations provisions of the OSHA Act.   OSHA will submit directives to its field offices that federal, rather than state OSHA regulations will have authority over cabin crewmember safety and health. 

Keeping Knives Out of Our Workplace

In 2005, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), under Administrator Kip Hawley,  tried to change the rules to allow knives to be brought onboard airplanes.  AFA fought a public and legislative campaign and the TSA kept knives on their Prohibited Items List. 

This year the TSA tried once again to relax the rule which prevents passengers from carrying knives onboard airplanes.  AFA and the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions fought this change through another public campaign, with the support of over 100 members of Congress. 

We applauded when the TSA announced their decision to rescind their proposed changes to the Prohibited Items List.   But this common sense decision could be reversed at any time. 

The only way we can guarantee that knives will never be allowed back onboard the aircraft is through a permanent legislative ban. 

The Keep Knives Out of Our Skies Act, S. 1008, 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.   If we are to move this legislation forward, your two senators need to hear from you. 


Please call the offices of your two Senators and urge them to cosponsor the Keep Knives Out of Our Skies Act, S. 1008. To reach your Senators you can call the Capitol Switchboard at 202.224-3121.  

The Senate bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation so you should ask to speak to the staff person who handles aviation issues when calling Senate offices. 

Flight Attendant Fatigue

For crew members, the issue of fatigue is of paramount concern as few factors have as direct and negative effect on safety as a tired workforce.  To help address this problem, the DOT and the FAA, on December 21, 2011 issued new rules on airline pilot flight and duty time limitations and minimum rest requirements.     

During the AFA Executive Board meeting this month, the Executive Board reaffirmed AFA's commitment to a science-based approach to addressing flight attendant rest requirements.       

Aviation Security

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.   H.R. 1775 has 48 bipartisan cosponsors. 

A Senate companion bill, the Saracini Aviation Safety Act of 2013, S. 1495, was introduced by Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) on September 11, 2013. Ellen Saracini, the widow of Captain Saracini, and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) have been actively lobbying for cosponsors for both the House and Senate bills.  AFA has endorsed this legislation as part of a multi-layered approach to aviation security. 

Employment Non-Discrimination

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is civil rights legislation that would make it illegal to fire, refuse to hire or refuse to promote employees because f their sexual orientation or gender identity.  Specifically, ENDA would expand current federal employment protections against discrimination, such as those based on race, religion, gender, national origin, age and disability, to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

AFA has been part of a broad coalition of organizations that have endorsed the enactment of ENDA since legislation was first introduced in 1994.  Advocates in Congress believe that the growing momentum around LBGT equality should help ENDA move forward this Congress. 

Cabotage and Foreign Ownership

Long standing U.S. aviation law reserves U.S. domestic point-to-point service to airlines owned and controlled by a U.S. citizen,  U.S. law and regulation also limits voting stock ownership by a foreign entity in a U.S. airline to 25 percent and caps foreign investment equity at 49 percent.  These requirements combined are designed to protect the U.S. airline industry and U.S. aviation workers. 

The European Union, as well as other countries and alliances, continue to advocate for changes to U.S. foreign ownership and cabotage laws.  AFA will continue to work with our friends in Congress to protect U.S. routes and our jobs.  These issues will remain a priority on our legislative agenda.   


Mid-Term Elections 2014….. Already???

It's hard to believe but the mid-term elections are right around the corner.  The 2014 House of Representatives elections will be held for all 435 seats representing the 50 United States.  Elections will also be held for the delegates from the District of Columbia and the five major U.S. territories – American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.

The United States Senate is made up of two Senators from each of the fifty states.  A U.S. Senator serves a six-year term and every two years one-third of the United States Senate is up for election.  Of the thirty-five  2014 Senate races, 21 seats are held by Democrats and 14 are Republican held seats. The current Senate has 55 Senators who caucus with the Democrats and 45 Republicans.

The following 35 States have Senators who are up for re-election in 2014: 

ALABAMA                                           Jeff Sessions (R)
ALASKA                                              Mark Begich (D)
ARKANSAS                                          Mark Pyror  (D)
COLORADO                                         Mark Udall (D)
DELAWARE                                         Chris Coons (D)
GEORGIA                                             open seat   (Saxby Chambliss (R)  retiring) 
HAWAII*                                             Brian Schatz (D)
IDAHO                                                  Jim Risch  (R)
ILLINOIS                                               Dick Durbin (D)
IOWA                                                    open seat  (Tom Harkin (D) retiring)
KANSAS                                               Pat Roberts (R)
KENTUCKY                                          Mitch McConnell (R)
LOUISIANA                                         Mary Landrieu (D)
MASSACHUSETTS                            Ed Markey  (D) 
MICHIGAN                                          open seat (Carl Levin (D) retiring)
MISSISSIPPI                                        Thad Cochran (R)
MINNESOTA                                      Al Franken  (D)
MONTANA                                         open seat    (Max Baucus (D) retiring)
NEBRASKA                                          open seat    (Mike Johanns (R) retiring)
NEW JERSEY                                       Cory Booker (D)
NEW HAMPSHIRE                            Jeanne Shaheen (D)
NEW MEXICO                                    Tom Udall (D)
NORTH CAROLINA                           Kay Hagan (D)
OKLAHOMA                                       James Inhofe (R)
OREGON                                              Jeff Merkley (D)
RHODE ISLAND                                  Jack Reed (D)
SOUTH CAROLINA*                         Tim Scott  (R)                                    
SOUTH DAKOTA                               open seat    (Tim Johnson (D) retiring)
TENNESSEE                                         Lamar Alexander (R)
TEXAS                                                   John Cornyn (R)
VIRGINIA                                             Mark Warner (D)
WEST VIRGINIA                                open seat    (Jay Rockefeller (D) retiring)
WYOMING                                          Mike Enzi (R)

*Special Election

AFA Political/Legislative Policy Committee

The Policy Committee will be meeting in Washington, D.C. on November 5-6, 2013. 


There will be regional "Government Affairs 101" training in Washington DC, on November 6 – 8, given by AFA's Government Affairs Director. This training covers the basics and is designed for new Committee Members with little or no previous experience.  This training will be held at the Beacon Hotel in Washington DC. 

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