I previously wrote about Barack Obama’s aviation plan; today’s post is about the one aviation-related bill he’s introduced in Congress, the FAA Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006 (S 2201). The bill, which never made it out of committee, would have amended the FAA’s personnel management procedures so that the FAA administrator would be unable to impose work rules in stalled labor negotiations without congressional assent. If Congress were not to act on the FAA administrator’s proposed work rules within sixty days, any contract-negotiation impasse would instead have to be submitted to binding arbitration.
Air traffic controllers have been working under these imposed work rules for two years this month. According to the Wall Street Journal, “[T]he FAA imposed contract terms on the union after negotiators failed to reach a deal on pay and working conditions. The FAA ended up imposing significant pay cuts for new controllers and froze salaries of others, along with setting new work rules.” (For more on this, see the controllers’ union and ATC blogs like Get the Flick and The FAA Follies.) Obama’s legislation would have required the FAA to give in and submit to neutral, binding arbitration in its negotiations with the controllers, as the work rules would never have made it past a Democratic Congress (or even perhaps a Republican one — remember, aviation issues don’t break down evenly along party lines).
Two years ago, Senator Obama introduced the “FAA Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006″ in an effort to halt what ended up being a relentless march by the FAA to destroy the collective bargaining process.
Obama’s bill sought to replace the FAA Administrator’s arbitrary authority with neutral binding arbitration in the case of an impasse in labor-management negotiations, something NATCA still seeks in 2008. . . .
Even in 2006, Obama knew that if the FAA imposed work and pay rules on controllers, the consequences would be dire, saying it would “lead to an erosion of talent at the agency with vital, retirement-eligible air traffic controllers interpreting such agency action as an invitation to retire,” and “will make recruiting needed replacement employees that much more difficult.”
He was right on both counts.
Obama’s support of air traffic controllers goes along with his detailed aviation policy plan, which, while it evinces little creative thinking about the challenges facing U.S. aviation in the coming years, indicates that he realizes what an important priority aviation issues ought to have on our national agenda — and that he has a plan to address the problems of today.