With Congress officially in its August recess, the Federal Aviation Administration will remain shut down for at least a month, furloughing 4,000 federal employees, stopping construction projects that employ tens of thousands of workers, and costing the government more than $1 billion in uncollected airline taxes. Airport inspectors are currently working without pay.
Much of the media coverage of the shutdown has framed it as simply another example of “Capitol Hill gridlock,” or has focused on cuts to rural airports that the House GOP included in the bill. But the crux of the matter is that House Republicans refused to reauthorize the FAA without the inclusion of a union-busting provision that would make it harder for workers at airlines and railways to organize. The cuts to rural airports — as House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL) freely admitted — were simply meant to stick it to Democratic senators (as they’re concentrated in states those senators represent).
The anti-union provision upon which the GOP is insisting has been desperately sought by big airlines, including Delta. Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) correctly summed up the story during an interview yesterday with NPR:
“The House has tried to make this a battle over essential air service,” he says. “It’s not a battle over essential air service. It’s a battle over Delta Airlines, who refuses to allow votes under the new rules that have been passed by the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board].”
The issue, Reid says, is Delta’s “non-union” stance. The bill to fund the FAA, as crafted by House Republicans, includes language that sets new rules for aviation workers’ votes on labor representation.
Reid isn’t quite right on the details, as the issue revolves around a rule crafted by the National Mediation Board, which oversees airlines and railroads, not the National Labor Relations Board. But his larger point is correct: the GOP is insisting on legislative union-busting and is willing to shut down the FAA in order to get its way.
Even some Republicans see through this charade, with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) saying “it’s not honorable” for the House GOP to attach extraneous policy riders to the FAA bill. The revenue that the government will lose over the next month dwarfs the cuts to rural airport subsidies that the House included in its bill.