FAA Impasse Almost Over, Leaders Say

Posted January 20, 2012 at 5:55pm

Congressional leaders are close to a deal on legislation to extend Federal Aviation Administration programs.

“I am pleased that we were able to resolve the major obstacles to an agreement in a manner that protects American workers and clears the way for a long-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a release. “While some issues remain, there is no reason we cannot resolve them in the coming days and avoid any risk of another FAA shutdown.”

The agency was living on borrowed time with a temporary extension set to expire Jan. 31.

“Every issue does not have to be a fight,” Reid said. “This is a good example of the common-sense results that Democrats and Republicans can produce when they work together, and put the interests of the American people ahead of scoring political points.”

At issue was a provision in the House bill to overturn a National Mediation Board ruling that says nonvoting employees should not be counted in the union election.

Before the rule, which was changed last year, airline and railroad employees who did not vote on whether to unionize were considered to have voted against organizing a union.

Republicans have said the rule overturns 75 years of labor law.

The deal reportedly struck Friday afternoon by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), and Reid would keep the NMB’s rule change intact, but would strengthen an initial hurdle that must be overcome before an election vote is held, according to CQ.

It would change the threshold by which a union can petition the NMB to call a vote on creating a new union. The deal would also raise the threshold to petition the NMB to conduct a new union election from 35 percent to 50 percent.

The deal would also require public hearings for all substantive new NMB rules. And it would require the Government Accountability Office to audit the NMB every two years to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness — including of the process by which a union is certified.

The deal would also order up a new GAO report examining the board’s certification procedures and recommending any changes to Congress.