Unions were breathing a sigh of relief Friday morning after House Republicans punted a contentious anti-union issue preventing funding for the Federal Aviation Administration to the end of December, providing back pay to agency workers and giving opponents more time to organize and fight GOP-backed anti-labor provisions.Rep. John Mica (R-FL), who chairs the the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, introduced a clean short-term extension of the FAA through December providing back pay to workers who were furloughed for nearly two weeks during a partial shutdown of the agency earlier this month. House GOP leaders plan to vote on the bill next week.
The extension, which cuts the agency’s overall budget by 5 percent, will be the 22nd for the agency since 2007, the last time Congress passed a full authorization bill. In the intervening years, Congress has failed to pass the measure over a dispute about modernizing the nation’s air traffic control system, but this year, the real sticking point for Democrats, was a GOP demand to change recently instituted federal labor regulation that made it easier for unions to organize at airline companies.
The change, which the National Mediation Board put into place, requires an employee vote on labor representation to be approved by a majority of those voting when previously, the rule required a majority of all affected employees, meaning that employees who failed to vote were counted as “no” votes. The provision benefits Delta Airlines almost exclusively because it is the only large carrier that is has yet to organize.
“The clean nature of this extension is a welcome development in that it will prevent another FAA shutdown and will not place people’s lives and jobs beneath John Mica’s and Delta Air Lines’ ideological, union-busting agendas,” said Communications Workers for America spokeswoman Candice Johnson.
Johnson also said Mica’s decision to punt the contentious issue down the road shows that the CWA’s recent direct mail and robocall campaign against Mica and a dozen GOP colleagues, is taking its toll.
An impasse in Congress over the current extension led to the agency being partially shut down for 13 days in August. About 4,000 workers were furloughed, and an estimated 70,000 construction workers were placed out of work.