Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Congress Reaches Bi-Partisan Agreement to Fund FAA and Resolve Union Organizing Issues

Incredible:  A Compromise is Actually Achieved

The U. S. Government has become so dysfunctional that now it is news if the Congress actually reaches agreement on legislation, rather than it being news when the Congress fails to reach agreement on actions necessary for the nations to operate.  The issue that finally got resolved is long term funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The barrier to an agreement was a demand by Republicans that had nothing to do with the operation of the FAA.  That demand was to overturn a rule regarding the elections that employees have to choose if they want to be represented by a union.  The issue was this.  It used to be in the election that those not voting were counted as “no” votes.  This is akin to having a rule that persons not voting in a governmental election be counted as Republican (or Democratic) votes.  In our democracy people not voting are counted as not voting, an eminently sensible arrangement.  So

The 2010 shift allows a majority of those casting ballots to approve a union. By contrast, the old rule required a majority of all eligible workers to back the union, with those who failed to cast ballots counted as "no votes."

Republicans have a built in bias against democracy, they just don’t like people voting.  So they tried to hold the FAA hostage to force a change in the rule that would count not voting as no votes.  But faced with logic and opposition, they compromised.  Republicans agreed to accept that not voting counts as not voting, but got Democrats to agree to make the holding of an election more difficult.

The agreement does require 50% of the employees to sign cards before a union election is scheduled, up from 35% today; it also calls for the NMB to hold runoff elections under certain circumstances, which could make it more difficult for unions to be certified. And under the compromise, the Comptroller General will regularly audit and provide independent review of unionization votes.

And all involved seem happy.

The Transport Workers Union, which represents diverse airline employees including ground workers at AMR Corp.'s American Airlines and flight attendants at Southwest Airlines Co., supported the deal on Monday. "We can live within those rules," said James Little, the union's president.

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots at multiple U.S. carriers, applauded the House and Senate leadership on the breakthrough, as did the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which represents air-traffic controllers.

Airlines for America, the main airline industry trade group, said the compromise "underscores the importance of this industry" and likewise urged Congress to "quickly resolve the remaining differences and pass a long-term bill."

Before anybody gets all weepy with joy, it should be noted that this agreement is the exception not the rule.  And the reason that this bill is passing is probably because it involves airports and airlines.  People in Congress fly, they fly a lot (mostly on the taxpayer’s dime).  And they sure want to make sure that flying is taken care of, even if it means, horror, horror, having to actually compromise and govern.

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