Outsourcing outrage

The House transportation committee chairman, Jim Oberstar, is drumming up the incensed and outraged for his hearing set for Thursday morning on FAA maintenance inspections. Oberstar’s Transportation Airline_AviationMaintenance.jpgand Infrastructure Committee hearing will excoriate the airlines, but his target oberflap.bmp will be the FAA and evidence of a “culture of coziness” demonstrates “a lack of an enforcement mindset” at the agency. “We need a change in attitudes at the highest levels of the FAA,” Oberstar said. While the FAA is his primary target, Oberstar (left, in a Slovenian maintenance facility) has secondary: US airline management’s increasing outsourcing of maintenance.
Oberstar took only a few shots at this practice of overseas and lower-cost maintenance contracting in press briefing about the hearing, he has a vigorous ally. Kevin Mitchell, the head of the Business Travel Coalition, which represents corporate travel departments and the like, has been soliciting signatures for a letter urging a deeper probe of outsourcing, both foreign and domestic, and plans a survey of business travel managers to show concern about with the issue. Mitchell is working with the Teamsters union.
The Teamsters union has made outsourcing a big organizing pitch issue this year; the union just won an election at United Airlines to enlist its mechanics after vowing to fight outsourcing at big network carriers. At United, the union ousted a smaller labor group, which had also made the fight against outsourcing its signature issue.
Mitchell and the BTC have usually reserved their clout – which can generate hundreds of emails, phone calls kpm.jpg and letters from every part of the country to pretty much every congressional office – for other issues. He’s lobbied on airport capacity, airport security ‘Fast Lanes’ and rules for computer reservation systems. But this safety-and-outsourcing nexus is a hot and headline-grabbing issue, and with a major FAA bill coming up this year or early in the next administration, Mitchell is certainly positioning himself to be ready to flex some muscle. As indeed is Oberstar.

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