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FAA Stifles Legitimate Debate on Bill to Create Fair Process for Dispute Resolution - (1/30/2006)

Agency’s “mixed messages” reveal its disregard for Congressional oversight

WASHINGTON – The Federal Aviation Administration is making an aggressive attempt to stifle debate on legislation that would bring accountability and fairness to FAA-NATCA contract negotiations. The FAA not only opposes legislation that would bring transparency back to the process, but is now trying to kill legitimate discussion of the topic by lawmakers, showing a shocking lack of regard for Congressional oversight.

In response to last week’s introduction of the Federal Aviation Administration Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006 by Senators Obama, Lautenberg, Murray and Inouye, the FAA dispatched a barrage of faxes to lawmakers all over Capitol Hill. Republican and Democratic offices received slightly different versions; while both versions called on members to oppose the bill, the agency also urged Republicans to decline holding hearings on the legislation. NATCA is calling for urgent hearings, both on the merits of the bill in question and the agency’s efforts to block productive, honest discussion of the issue.

“The FAA has reached new lows of cynical manipulation in its attempts to stifle legitimate debate on this important bill,” said NATCA President John Carr. “The agency’s action is not only undemocratic, but it speaks volumes about the weakness of its position and its disregard for Congressional oversight authority.”

The FAA’s attempt to suppress discussion of this important issue is poorly timed for the agency, as hundreds of air traffic controllers are in Washington this week for the union’s annual legislative conference. This week, these public servants will take their message of safety, fairness and accountability to their elected officials, asking them to support the Federal Aviation Administration Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006.

The bill was introduced last week in an attempt to halt the FAA’s clearly predetermined agenda to declare impasse in contract negotiations and to unilaterally impose a contract on its employees. The bill provides a three-step process in the event of a breakdown in negotiations, which would ensure fair and productive bargaining:

1) Mediation: If the FAA can not reach agreement with the union, the parties will use the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help them reach a voluntary agreement.

2) Congressional Action: If using FMCS does not result in an agreement, the FAA can send its contract proposal to Congress, along with the union’s objections to the disputed portions of the offer. Congress has the opportunity to adopt the FAA proposal or allow it to go to a neutral third party for resolution.

3) Binding Arbitration – If a bill is not enacted within 60 days of Congress receiving the FAA’s proposal, the agency and the union must take their dispute to binding arbitration.

The bill already has momentum on Capitol Hill. Since its introduction last Thursday, Senators Durbin and Kennedy have already agreed to support it. Many more are expected to lend their support in the coming days.

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