Published 06 Feb, 2012
Following three-and-a-half years without a full FAA reauthorization, which led to 23 stopgap extensions and one painful showdown of the FAA, the Senate approved the “FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act” 75-20.
The bill was introduced at the beginning of the 112th Congress, and contains several issues of great importance to TWU members. Congressional Republicans attached an unrelated labor provision to the bill, which labor unions, Democratic leaders, and President Obama saw this issue, viewed as a nonstarter. This issue— the reversal of the NMB’s yes/no ballot ruling—held the bill up for almost a year and was a key issue during the FAA shutdown in August 2011.
Three weeks ago, Senate Democrats and the House Republicans informed that a “compromise” was reached to strike the yes/no ballot provision and instead made modifications to the way NMB elections are triggered and to require frequent GAO reviews of the NMB’s work. TWU remains furious about the process under which this “compromise” was reached—with absolutely no consultation with labor unions, whose Members will ultimately be impacted by the changes they’ve made.
Regardless, funding the FAA— rather than dragging the debate into the next Congress, and preventing another shutdown— has been the ultimate goal. As President James C. Little stated to the press, “we can live with it.” Last week, before the House was scheduled to take up the bill (which they passed 248-169), President Little sent a letter to every Member of Congress, specifically outlining TWU’s position on the legislation. You can read his letter by clicking here. In addition to giving the aviation industry a sense of certainty for the next four years, the “FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act” does the following:
Mandates annual inspections of non-certificated foreign repair stations
Calls for stricter drug and alcohol testing for foreign repair workers
Provides significant funding for the implementation of NextGen
Orders the FAA and OSHA to create a work plan to extend safety and health protections to flight attendants—a process that was started over ten years ago
While we remain skeptical about the good the GAO reports will do, and are concerned about the ambiguity over merger procedures, we supported the bill until the final hour, and applaud both the Senate and the House of Representatives for passing it.