Transportation union blesses deal on FAA

At least one major union is ready to accept the labor provisions that were included in a deal to provide long-term funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

As part of the FAA agreement reached last week, lawmakers agreed to a compromise on the unionization rules for workers covered under the Railway Labor Act, which includes some airline employees.

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Partisan fighting over the labor provision held up the FAA funding bill for the better part of a year.

Under the agreement, at least 50 percent of a company’s workforce would have to be in favor of a union before an election could be called, up from 35 percent under current rules.

The Transport Workers Union (TWU) said it’s willing to live with that in order to end the string of short-term funding extensions for the FAA, which is expected to reach 23 this week as lawmakers iron out the final details of their compromise. The agency’s current short-term funding measure had been expected to run out Jan. 31.

“We’ve had temporary extensions of the FAA 22 different times,” TWU President James Little said in a statement. “That’s no way to run what’s supposed to be the safest and most efficient air transportation system in the world.”

Little pointed out that the TWU has won union elections with greater percentages than the new 50 percent threshold.

“We can live within those rules,” he said. “In our most recent successful organization campaign, with flight attendants at Allegiant Air, we filed with an overwhelming majority, and won the election with 63 percent of the vote.”

The impasse over the FAA funding, which briefly led to the agency being shut down last summer, began when House Republicans sought to reverse labor election rules enacted in 2009 by the National Mediation Board to ensure absentee votes were not counted as votes against forming a union. Senate Democrats balked, calling the provision anti-democratic, and House Republicans dug in their heels.

The House will vote Tuesday on extending the FAA’s funding through the end of February.