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Mon, Dec 12, 2011

Labor Issues Still Cloud FAA Funding Bill

NMB Rules Remain The Only Roadblock To Long-Term Funding Package

The only thing apparently standing in the way of a long-term funding bill for the FAA is a 2010 National Mediation Board rule which changed how votes are counted in airline and other union elections.

The bill passed by the Republican-controlled House this spring contained language to overturn the NMB rule, which makes it easier for labor unions to win representation elections at airlines. The rule was not overturned by the Democratically-controlled Senate version, and the leadership of the relevant committees have been trying to get to a conference report that can pass both chambers ever since.

Democrats are pointing to recent union elections in which airline workers have decided against union representation even under the new rules as proof that the system is working as it is. But an aide for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Politico that "at the moment, there is no agreement."

Other differences between the two versions ... such as overall funding levels, the Essential Air Services Program, and rules for shipping certain batteries ... have reportedly all be resolved. The labor issue remains as the only apparent roadblock to the bills' passage. Kay Bailey Hutchinson, the ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce Committee, told Politico that she thinks "once the NMB is settled, everything will trigger. I just hope it's right now."

The FAA has been without a long-term funding measure since the last one expired in 2007. It has been operating under a string of continuing resolutions since that time ... and a total of 22 CR's have been passed to keep the agency's doors open. The current funding mechanism expires January 31st, 2012.

FMI: www.house.gov, www.senate.gov

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