Flight attendants fight to prevent FAA shut down, preserve democratic union elections

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA earlier this week took action to prevent another shut down at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and to protect fair and free elections for union representation. AFA-CWA members held rallies at airports around the nation and demonstrated outside the Florida offices of US Congressman John Mica.

Last June Rep. Mica, Chair of the House Transportation Committee, added language to the FAA appropriations bill that would require unions to win a majority of eligible voters in union representation elections in the airline and railroad industries instead of a majority of voters who actually vote as is currently required.

According to The Hill, an online publication that covers Congress, Mica’s insistence that this higher standard for union elections be included in the FAA’s appropriations bill led to an impasse, which required Congress to pass a short-term extension of FAA’s  funding bill. To gain political leverage, Mica inserted new language in the short-term extension bill that “cut rural airport subsidies which would impact airports in states represented by Democratic senators.” Democratic senators balked at the new language, and when Congress recessed without a short-term extension in place, the FAA shut down causing the furloughs and a loss of $400 million in tax revenue.

A temporary agreement reopened the FAA after two weeks, but that agreement expires on September 16. Unless a funding bill passes by September 16, FAA will shut down again.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reported that Mica added the anti-union language to the FAA funding bill after Delta Air Lines lobbied hard for such language.

Rep. Mica is “acting as Delta Air Lines’ pawn by advancing a union-busting provision and threatening another shutdown of the FAA,” said Veda Shook, AFA-CWA president.  “Mica’s contempt for workers and the 75,000 people who were out of work due to the partial shutdown of the FAA is feeding Delta’s grossly funded union-busting scheme.”

Delta has remained a largely un-unionized airline, but is facing a serious organizing campaign by AFA-CWA. Last November, nearly 20,000 Delta flight attendants voted in a union representation election. Delta narrowly won the election by a little more than 300 votes, but AFA-CWA charged that the company unlawfully interfered with the election.

In June, the National Mediation Board, which oversees union elections in the airline and railway industries, ruled that there was enough evidence of unlawful interference by Delta to warrant further investigation. If the investigation finds that Delta as AFA-CWA charges unlawfully interfered in the election, then another election will be held. If another election is held then it would be to Delta’s advantage to have the higher standard in place.

Shook criticized Rep. Mica and Delta for holding the FAA hostage in order to advance their own anti-union ideology. “This is the man,” said Shook referring to Rep. Mica. “Who is acting as Delta Air Lines’ pawn by advancing a union-busting provision and threatening another shutdown of the FAA. Mica’s contempt for workers and the 75,000 people who were out of work due to the partial shutdown of the FAA is feeding Delta’s grossly funded union busting scheme.”

Shook and other unions leaders have pointed out that if Delta’s and Rep. Mica’s election standard were applied to elections for US Congress, many representatives and senators would not have won their elections and would not be serving in Congress today.

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