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Back in March I wrote about Delta Airlines fueling an anti-union campaign in Washington over the reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Basically the teabagger dominated House Republican caucus included an anti-union measure in the FAA reauthorization act to make it difficult for aviation and rail workers to organize. Just how far the House Republicans are willing to go in their zeal to crush hard working men and women in our unions? Laura Clawson explains at DailyKos Labor – these crazies are ready to shut down the FAA:
The House wants to revert to an old rule in which all workers eligible to vote are counted as having done so. If they didn't actually cast a vote, they are recorded as a "no" vote. That means that joining a union does not just require getting a majority of the votes cast, but a majority of all workers. It's as if defeating George W. Bush would have required a majority of all voting-age Americans, regardless of voter turnout; as Joan McCarter has written, this provision codifies vote fraud.
That's what the House wants to shut down the FAA over. Since they're taking the position that air traffic controllers would be kept on as essential employees, they probably figure that public anger would be minimal even as they cause some pain, including furloughs for other workers and loss of revenue as airlines stop collecting ticket taxes. But House Republicans aren't just going out of their way to be dicks to workers: They've proposed a short-term extension that eliminates federal subsidies to 13 rural airports, including ones in the home states of the three Democratic senators with the most authority over the bill. And they're not pretending that's a coincidence; the chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee referred to it as "just a tool to try to motivate some action to get this resolved"—the "this" being passage of the anti-union provision.
According to a letter from Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) to John Boehner, the series of short-term extensions has already had costs such as slowing airport construction projects. But, you know, anything to make it harder for workers to join unions.
Oh by the way, the letter from Rahall also pointed out that while ramming through the union busting provision via the FAA legislation, the House Republicans also voted down a measure that would stop airlines like Delta from charging armed forces for four bags or less. Yet these people are out there shamelessly claiming to support the troops. By the way Delta was forced to change its policies after it was humiliated nationally for charging our troops for extra baggage.
Back to the main point of this post after the jump.
The folks at Communication Workers of America, who represent the workers in aviation industry provides a good primer on this issue:
Here’s another way of phrasing the lede: “the anti-union, ideological fervor of House Republicans like John Mica (R-FL) is stronger than their desire to create new American jobs and deliver needed aviation industry upgrades. These ideologues would rather shut down the FAA than see union elections for air and rail workers adhere to the same basic election standards as every other form of American election, union or non-union.”
Here’s what passing a multi-year FAA Reauthorization bill would mean for the nation : hundreds of thousands of jobs, critical safety improvements, infrastructure and technology upgrades to air traffic control systems, and a shot in the arm for airlines' bottom lines. Yet an agreement in the conference committee process to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the legislation remains out of reach, predominantly due to an unrelated attack on union election rules and collective bargaining.
Here’s the sticking point : Mica and his cohorts, like Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI), are insisting that the FAA Reauthorization bill includes a union-busting measure that would stack the decks against workers' ability to collectively bargain. This provision would change the rules that govern union organizing elections for air and rail workers overseen by the National Mediation Board (NMB) and would subject these workers to a different election standard than every other form of American election. Instead of adhering to the principle that we only count ballots actually cast, the House version of the FAA legislation would count eligible voters who did not participate in an election the same as actually having voted "No." As a report from the Communications Workers of America (CWA) demonstrated, if congressional and Senate elections were conducted under the proposed standards for NMB elections, zero current Member of Congress or Senator would have won their last election.
Thankfully the White House came out immediately yesterday pushing back against the House Republicans (via email):
The Administration strongly supports passage of a clean extension of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) programs, as the Congress has done 20 times without controversy, in order to allow bipartisan, bicameral negotiations to continue on a full reauthorization.
H.R. 2553 includes controversial provisions that, because they have not been negotiated, needlessly threaten critical FAA programs and jeopardize thousands of public and private sector jobs. Without timely passage of a clean extension, all of FAA’s capital accounts (Grants-in-Aid for Airports, Facilities and Equipment, and Research, Engineering, and Development) would be shut down, and approximately 4,000 employees would be furloughed. FAA’s ability to award new grants, including for infrastructure upgrades at airports across the country, as well as to move forward with vital testing and implementation of the Next Generation air traffic control system, would come to a stop.
In the video above Rachel Maddow also explains the situation as well. Let’s hope the Senate Democrats do not cave to these extremists. As Greg Sargent pointed out few weeks ago while writing on this issue (emphasis added):
Whether or not you believe labor’s threat to soften support for national Dems in 2012, it would be folly to take full-blown union support for granted — in 2010, recall, turnout among union households dropped significantly. Standing firm in this FAA fight would be a good way for national Dems to restore organized labor’s confidence that the national party will fight for labor’s priorities — and hence is worth labor’s maximum time and money.
We will be watching this closely.