U.S. lawmakers apparently have resolved a dispute over rules governing airline labor organizing that had stood as one of the major roadblocks to passage of a long-term FAA reauthorization bill. With that issue behind them, House and Senate leaders believe they reached agreement on a multi-year funding plan for FAA spending and programs.
House Republicans drew the battle lines when they inserted a provision in their 2011 FAA reauthorization bill that overturned a 2010 National Mediation Board (NMB) ruling that made it easier for airline employees to vote to join a union.
The NMB ruled in 2010 that non-voters were not to be counted as votes against forming a union in labor elections in the transportation sector. Before that ruling, a majority of all workers in a bargaining unit had to vote in favor of unionizing. The 2010 ruling raised the possibility that a minority group of employees could force an entire workforce to unionize against the will of the majority.
The Democratic-controlled Senate would not go along with Republican efforts to overturn the NMB ruling, igniting a standoff that has lasted since May 2011. But now, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) say their deal makes it easier for airline employees, specifically at Delta Air Lines, to unionize.
The Communications Workers of America, which represents some flight attendants, has accused House Transportation Committee chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) of “doing the bidding” of Delta in pushing for the change in labor rules.
But under the compromise, House Republicans agreed to drop the NMB provision. In return, Senate Democrats agreed to look at how other government agencies handle union voting and study greater oversight of the NMB.
Meanwhile, congressional aides said work remains on several smaller parts of the FAA bill, requiring another temporary extension of FAA funding and programs. The agency has operated under a series of temporary bills since the last multiple-year FAA reauthorization expired in 2007.
Mica introduced a 23rd short-term extension bill on January 23, which will continue FAA funding and programs through February 17. The House approved the extension by a voice vote on January 24, and the Senate passed a companion bill two days later.