Even as lawmakers on Friday managed to end a two-week furlough of Federal Aviation Administration employees, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had harsh words for Capitol Hill, calling the partial shutdown part of a “dangerous pattern.”
“It looks increasingly like tea party Republicans are actually trying to make our government dysfunctional in order to tear it down,” Trumka said on a conference call with reporters. “They were willing to sacrifice 90,000 jobs and actually cost the government $390 million in revenue.”
Trumka said union leaders and working people were fed up with the political battle over the FAA reauthorization bill and with the recent debt ceiling crisis, which he said was “manufactured” by tea party Republicans.
“This group of people is playing Russian roulette with the economy and using six bullets instead of one,” the union chief said.
He added that on Tuesday, he and about 60 international AFL-CIO union leaders from the federation’s general board met with President Barack Obama at the White House.
Their message for the president, he said, was that Obama and every politician needed to create the same sense of crisis for job creation as they did with the debt ceiling.
“We want to see the same urgency that we saw when it came to the debt ceiling. ... There was clamoring and meetings that were going late,” Trumka said. “I normally don’t talk about meetings we have at the White House because they’re open, they’re frank. We told him exactly how we feel about the economy, our fears about the economy.”
Trumka also said he told the president that the debt deal would kill 1.8 million jobs and that Obama needs to start with infrastructure programs and with aid to state and local governments. Trumka added that he and the union members told Obama that these programs need to be launched on the scale necessary to solve the jobs problem, not the scale he thinks Republicans are willing to accept.
“[Republicans] don’t care about the economy. They don’t care about job creation. They only care about stymieing this president,” he said.
As for the FAA matter, Trumka and Dan Stefko, one of the 4,000 furloughed FAA engineers, called on Congress to pass a permanent FAA reauthorization bill when it returns from August recess. The bill has been caught up in a political fight that deals with union elections, and the extension that Congress sent to the president Friday expires next month.
“It’s just unacceptable,” Stefko said. “This is a piece of legislation that is vital.”
But while Trumka blamed GOPers, an FAA facts sheet on the website of Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who heads the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, put the blame for the furlough on the Democratic-controlled Senate.
It said Mica has worked with Senate Commerce Chairman John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and other Members of Congress to pass a “responsible and long-overdue FAA reauthorization.”
It added: “The House of Representatives successfully passed the FAA extension bill the week of July 22nd and submitted it to the Senate for its approval, just as it has done numerous times before without incident. I am disappointed that Democrats in the Senate have chosen to burden taxpayers with further wasteful spending on the backs of faultless FAA employees and look forward to an expedited resolution to this matter.”