Unions urge lawmakers to pass multi-year FAA funding measure

A host of aviation industry-related unions urged Congress on Monday to pass a long-term funding bill for the Federal Aviation Administration.

Congress narrowly avoided a second shutdown of the FAA in as many months earlier in September when it passed a bill to extend the beleaguered agency's funding through January of next year.

But the presidents and vice presidents of 14 unions said Monday that it was time for Congress to do more for the FAA, which has had 22 short-term extensions of its funding bill that expired in 2007. 

"Now that Congress has completed work on a funding extension for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), we urge you to turn your attention to swift completion of a multi-year FAA Reauthorization Act," the unions wrote.

"Passage of an FAA bill is critical to air safety, will create more than 300,000 good jobs and will modernize our aging air traffic control system," the letter to lawmakers continued. "Failure to complete an aviation safety bill due to issues that have nothing to do with the safety and expansion of our aviation system, will be a major setback for the 757 million annual air travelers who rightfully expect their elected leaders to be responsible stewards of our aviation system." 

A new long-term bill has been held up in large part because of an effort by Republicans in the House to undo labor rules adopted last year by the National Mediation Board that sought to make it easier for transportation workers to unionize.

The provision was in the four-year, $59 billion deal the House passed in May for the FAA, but it was not included in the two-year, $34 billion that was approved by the Senate in February. President Obama responded to the labor language by issuing a veto threat, leading to the short-term extensions of the FAA funding.

The unions said Monday that the labor language should be removed from the bill.

"Any attempt to repeal National Mediation Board (NMB) union election rules for aviation and rail employees or to amend the Railway Labor Act does not belong in FAA reauthorization," the letter said. "These efforts have absolutely nothing to do with aviation safety or job creation, and the new NMB election rules simply allow for a majority of those voting in a union election to decide the outcome."

The FAA was partially shut down for nearly two weeks in August when Congress couldn't come to an agreement on a bill that would have funded the agency just through its traditional summer recess. The shutdown resulted in about 4,000 workers being furloughed for 13 days and was estimated to have cost the government about $30 million per day in lost sales tax revenue on airline ticket sales.

The shutdown "put the agency further behind in its mission to maintain the safest air space in the world," the unions said in their letter to members of Congress.

The letter was signed by the leaders of the Air Line Pilots Association; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA; Communications Workers of America; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers; Laborers’ International Union of North America; the National Air Traffic Controllers Association; Office and Professional Employees International Union; Professional Aviation Safety Specialists; Transport Workers Union of America; the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO; United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union; and the United Transportation Union.