Passenger rights, labor wrongs in FAA measure


The airline passenger bill of rights is back, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But a flyers’ rights bill written by the two leading House Transportation Committee Democrats buries pretty deep down in its text certain select elements of the FAA bill that is now stalled in the Senate, and toward the end is a provision that would put the long-running FAA/air-traffic controller dispute into binding arbitration. The measure, written by committee chair Jim Oberstar (left) and aviation subcommittee chair Jerry Costello, requires that FAA to return to bargaining with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and if they cannot reach a new contract within 45 days, to submit their dispute to binding arbitration. The measure sets aside $20 million to give back pay to air-traffic controllers covered by a new contract once it is reached.


Granted both provisions were in the original House bill, but to tack the labor matters on to the passenger rights treatment seems a little sneaky. Labor pains and flyer rights have little in common other than a certain partisan appeal. And to play the devil’s advocate for a moment, this is just what the union wants: make extreme demands, refuse to concede at the table, and hope that an ‘arb’ will just split the difference. In that case the union gets a big chunk of what it wants.

The union, which represents 14,000 controllers, has been working under a work-rules and pay scales that the FAA imposed in July 2005, after talks broke down. Although it does not have the legal right to strike, it can undertake such actions as a work-to-rule or slowdown. Still, the US airspace system doesn’t need anyone to slow it down these days. 

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5 Responses to Passenger rights, labor wrongs in FAA measure

  1. ihate2fly June 28, 2008 at 1:52 am #

    Work-to-rule was attempted before the 1981 strike. It was found to have been the same as a strike and will get a controller fired.

    A slowdown is considered a job action is is covered under the same provisions of the USC as a strike. Again, it will get a controlelr fired.

    Furthermore, it is impossible to accomplish both of these actions by just one person. because you need so many controllers to be in on this, NATCA would have to report the actors to the FAA. They would not only fire everyone involved, they would move to have the union decertified.

    Hence the present situation the controllers find themselves in. The FAA can abrogate a union contract and implement work rules without repercussion and the controllers have to sit there and take it until a neutral observer can step in and rule otherwise.

    Since I don’t have a dog in this hunt, I can say I find the congressional language in both versions of FAA Reauthorization to be innovative.

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