From: "Pat Forrey" (email@example.com) National Office Update for the Week of June 15, 2008
Sisters and Brothers?
Once again, FAA Authorization is caught up in the Senate, specifically the extension that authorizes the FAA to collect ticket and fuel taxes for the Aviation Trust Fund. Because FAA Reauthorization has not passed, the temporary authorization of the FAA expires on June 30th. The House and Senate have both been working on an extension.
As a quick update, the House proffered an initial extension that contained NATCA legislative language addressing our Imposed Work Rules issue. It would have sent both parties back to the table under the rules of the last mutually agreed to contract. The Senate reply to Oberstar and Costello was that the only way to pass an extension in the Senate is as a ?clean? bill though unanimous consent (UC) without any amendments (like our fix) because they wouldn?t get UC. If the bill goes to the Senate floor, it?ll get loaded with amendments, which will kill it.
The Senate initially tried to hotline (a procedure where it polls offices to see if it can get unanimous consent) an extension early this week that was an extension for 90 days (until the end of the fiscal year) and included a highway trust fund fix (a fix that would allow distribution of $8 billion dollars in highway funds). This addition of the Highway Trust Fund was mandated by Senator Reid and agreed to by the Republican leadership. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) the Ranking Member from the relevant Commerce Committee objected to the length of the extension (She was also the one that objected to non-aviation amendments and amendment procedures when FAA Reauthorization was recently on the Senate floor). As a result, the hotline, or attempt to get unanimous consent in the Senate failed.
Friday, the Senate ?seemingly? came to an agreement that Hutchison would support?and I stress the word seemingly. The extension would go through the end of the fiscal year (6 months) and would include the same Highway Trust Fund Fix. Once the House heard of the Senate deal, they decided to drop a bill that would go until the end of the fiscal year (90 days) and include the $8 billion Highway Trust Fund fix. The House feels that a short extension keeps the pressure on the Senate to act on FAA Reauthorization this year. Oberstar, Costello, Mica and Petri dropped the bill (HR 6327) sponsored by Rangel (because it is a tax bill). Now it comes down to who blinks first. Some in the Senate have said that they might let the authorization lapse. That?s doubtful in an election year, especially when the FAA is already touting that they will issue furloughs.
Obviously I am very disturbed with the Senates lack of moving any legislation, particularly a fix to our labor dispute with the FAA. According to Senate leadership, the slim majority coupled with the Senate?s rules and procedures has stifled their ability to address a multitude of issues. However, Labor is very troubled by the Senate leadership?s lack of fight in building a record for the voting public on many key issues that are important to millions of Americans. On one hand, the Democratic leadership asks for our help in very close Senate races where Republicans are in danger of losing their seat. A Senate majority closer to 60 would enable the leadership to overcome objections and filibusters by the minority. Yet it has been very difficult to get a show of support from them in getting us a vote on our Controller Retention Language that fixes Title 49 and puts the parties back at the table where they left off before the FAA declared impasse and imposed their work and pay rules.
We have continually asked for a vote on our issue so that our members can see who our enemies are; we need a vote to see who is with us and who is not. Up to now, we?ve remained neutral in many of the Senate races waiting for some action in that chamber to decide where our support needs to be. Obviously, if the incumbent votes against us we intend to do everything in our power to see that member defeated in November. As long as they can avoid such a clear sign ? taking a vote - it makes it difficult for our members to decide who should stay and who should go. It is a known fact that our issue is a core one for the Republican Party; they are adamantly opposed to undoing what the FAA did. However, this is more of a policy issue for the Administration, and many of the Republican Senators up for reelection may very well try to distance themselves from the Bush Administration in order to be reelected. We would like to give them a chance to show us where they stand. And the surest way to do that is through a vote on our issue.
I met with President Sweeney last Thursday to discuss this very issue. He agrees that if the Democrats ask us to mobilize our membership in the upcoming election then they need to show us the same support in the Congress. President Sweeney and I are setting up a series of meetings with Senate leadership ASAP in order to convey the urgency of this basic American right ?Collective Bargaining!
The bottom-line is that we will keep fighting for what is right. The fact that everyone recognizes that the Senate is now ineffective is something we are, and have been, trying to work through. Things can change in DC quickly. FAA Reauthorization was dead, and two weeks later, it was on the floor getting an 88-0 vote on a motion to proceed. We keep making our case and recognize that a comprehensive bill this year isn?t impossible. We have to continue to stick together and to keep fighting for what is right not only for us, but for the safety of the system. As I have stated before, we will fix this, one way or another.
This past week, the FAA conducted a Fatigue Symposium here in DC. Representatives from virtually every sector of aviation were in attendance. NATCA was asked to co-chair one of the panels, but I declined on the basis that the FAA was stone-walling our attempts to address the NTSB?s recommendation to work with NATCA in dealing with controller fatigue. I personally see this symposium as the Agency?s way of working around NATCA when it comes to dealing with controller fatigue. I also believe this event was designed as a public relations stopgap measure to deflect the FAA?s horrendous management of the national airspace system. Regardless, I did send several of our safety representatives as well as Dale Wright, our Director of Safety and Technology to represent our membership. I do not believe we will see any earth-shattering decisions made from this symposium.
Our main goal in attending was to ensure our presence was known, and to protect our members? interests by expressing our opinions concerning controller fatigue. I also wanted to be present to counter act any misinformation and falsehoods concerning our profession, responsibilities and activities. Based on the reports I received from our reps, my concerns about the Agency?s habitual tendency to exaggerate and manipulate information to an unsuspecting audience were accurate?
True to form, the very first session included a briefing from Ken Meyers (ATO-E) about the progress FAA has made regarding the NTSB controller fatigue Safety Recommendation. It was stated that the FAA has been working very hard and in collaboration with NATCA to address the fatigue issue. Well, nothing could be further from the truth. Our representatives threw the bullshit flag, stating that we met a total of one time almost one year after the recommendation was made, and have not heard back from the FAA since! Ken Myer?s went on to brief about what work had been done. The FAA reported out information that was never disclosed or discussed when we met in March 2008. It was obvious to us that the Agency has been working this issue on their own, while they try to portray this as a collaborative exercise; we set the record straight!
The FAA?s plan was to take the fatigue factors list developed in our sole meeting between the parties, and present it to the 26 entities in attendance to figure out what is best for ATC. We have continually requested that the work group reconvene since our initial meeting, but the FAA has continued to ignore our request. Clearly the Agency continues to shun NATCA and intended to use this forum as a means to legitimize what they always intended to do ? impose their will on our work force. Not that this is something new, but the subject of fatigue is too hot for the FAA to try and unilaterally implementing changes while Congress, the NTSB, and the public are watching. I truly believe that if we were not there, the Agency and the industry would be developing their own solutions to controller fatigue that would neither reduce fatigue nor facilitate our ability to safely move air traffic.
Continued in Part 2 ...