A Georgia-based employee of the Federal Aviation Administration blasted congressional Republicans this afternoon for skipping town after voting to raise the debt ceiling without coming to an agreement to re-authorize the FAA. The agency’s resulting shutdown, now in its 11th day, left 74,000 FAA employees and affiliated construction workers without work, is costing taxpayers $200 million a week, and will likely last at least another month until Congress reconvenes in September.
The impasse resulted from House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica’s (R-FL) decision to insert an anti-union measure into the re-authorization package. The measure would make it harder for workers to form a union by counting workers who don’t vote in union elections as “No” votes, a practice Democrats have long fought to prevent.
FAA engineer Neil Bolen, who is also the vice president of his union, blasted the GOP for being “totally unaware” of the workers’ struggles and for the absurdity of the anti-union measure:
BOLEN: It’s incredibly frustrating. The whole concept that they’re saying, ‘Oh, this um, railroad act of how to vote in unions —
HOST: Right, the sticking point comes down to language over airline unionization rules.
BOLEN: That doesn’t pass the weasel test. They’re saying if you don’t vote, then it counts as a no. [...] That’s just silly. And the worst part is so many of these congressmen are not working for their constituents. A number of the airline employees live in [Rep.] Lynn Westmoreland’s [R-GA] district, here in Atlanta. And he’s not looking out for his constituents, which are the airline employees.
HOST: I mean, if you look at the situation, you have thousands of people out of work, important construction projects on hold — very important projects — and then you have Congress on vacation. [...]
BOLEN: I’m having a great time on my vacation. Without pay by the way. I’m not on a congressional junket. I’m sitting at the house watching the grass grow. So no, I’m not terribly pleased with what they’ve managed to accomplish.
President Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood have repeatedly called on Congress to re-authorize the agency, and Obama today signaled that an agreement may come by the end of the week. While Bolen would surely welcome that, he’s frustrated that Congress left town in the first place. “The debt ceiling argument ended Monday and Tuesday,” he said. “Well, where you at on Wednesday? You don’t have to go on vacation. Take another day. Get it finished. ‘Cause you’re sitting around, gnashing a great amount, about cutting a few billion here over 10 years. But you’re losing 1.2 [billion] this month. How do you figure that, folks?”