Union workers hold signs at Oakland International Airport in California last month during a news conference about long-term funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The CWA and Senate Democrats have pointed the finger at Delta Air Lines for championing the labor measure, which would roll back a new National Mediation Board regulation that makes it easier for labor unions to organize. Delta is the one major airline that is not mostly unionized. Delta officials have publicly criticized the NMB rules change, but they declined a request for further comment.
"This aviation and jobs bill should not be held up over an unrelated, controversial labor provision — all at the request of one employer," Larson said. Delta's lobbying expenditures in 2009 and 2010 topped $5.4 million, according to an analysis by the Sunlight Foundation.
"This is purely the work of Delta," Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said in a floor statement this summer. "Most of the legacy airlines are unionized. Delta is not."
Mica's office could not be reached for comment, but a Mica spokesman told the San Francisco Chronicle last month, "We're not doing this for Delta." Mica has emphasized the role that disputes over rural airport funding played in the FAA shutdown.
Having won a short-term funding measure, labor organizers are now turning their attention to winning approval for a multiyear FAA reauthorization. Legislation to fund the program expired in 2007, and there have been 22 short-term funding extensions since then. Airline workers say that leaves them operating essentially from hand to mouth, with no reliable funding stream to underwrite the industry and address outstanding health and safety policy issues.
Labor organizers are on "standby," Larson said, ready to start round two of their lobbying campaign: "We've won a small battle, but the war is still to be waged."