Published 21 Jul, 2011
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) could shutdown this Friday, July 22 thanks to Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives who are threatening to block renewal of funding because stripping aviation and rail workers of their rights is more important to them than airline safety and jobs.
Essentially, Republican leadership is upset that the Democratic lead Senate is standing firm protecting the rights of workers. So, the Republican majority lead House attached language in the 21st extension that will take Essential Air Service (EAS) from states of those Democratic Senators (and others) who are leading the fight to protect the right of airline workers to hold union representation elections allowing the majority vote cast to decide on whether workers can form a union or not. This maneuver basically, takes the FAA Hostage.
Rep. John Mica (R-FL) Chairman of the House Transportation Infrastructure Committee admits that the move is to force the Senate to accept the House’s version of the full reauthorization, which abolishes democratic union elections for workers and provides less funding for important modernization projects.
Shutdown of the FAA during the busy summer travel season would mean nearly 32,000 workers, including safety inspectors, could be furloughed. Air traffic controllers however would continue to report for duty.
Politicians have been unable to agree on a long-term FAA bill, so reauthorization has been extended with temporary fixes 20 times since September 2007. Republicans in the House refused to approve a Senate version of the bill because it did not overturn the National Mediation Board (NMB) rule change that allowed workers in aviation and rail to form a union, like all other workers, through a majority vote. The NMB rule reversed the old practice in which workers who did not vote were counted as no votes.
The lack of a long-term bill has meant that important airport improvements and development of NextGen guidance technology have fallen by the wayside. Now, GOP Congressmen have put even the 21st temporary reauthorization at risk over their political wrangling.
The Senate has approved an extension that would allow funding until September 16th. The President urged Congress to pass a clean extension which the House failed to do.
The anticipated shutdown will go into effect Saturday, July 23rd.