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Bipartisan House Bill Seeks Fairness in FAA Talks - (2/15/2006)

WASHINGTON – In a strong show of bipartisan unity and support to bring fairness and accountability to the Federal Aviation Administration negotiating process, nearly three dozen lawmakers are co-sponsoring a bill introduced today by Rep. Sue Kelly, R-N.Y., and Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., that would deny the FAA any ability to unilaterally impose a contract on its employees without the consent of Congress.

“We’re grateful for the bipartisan leadership of these representatives. This bill would propose a small change in the law, but it would make a big difference by restoring fairness and true accountability to the negotiation process,” said NATCA President John Carr. “FAA management appears to be blind to the progress that is being made at the contract table. As everyone has now seen, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey is ready to declare impasse as soon as she possibly can and this bill will help stop that.”

The law, section 40122 of title 49, U.S. Code, currently says that in the event of a breakdown in negotiations – an impasse – the FAA can send the contract to Congress, providing it the opportunity to get involved. If Congress chooses not to get involved, then the FAA believes it can unilaterally impose its last, best contract offer on its employees, thereby removing any motivation for the FAA to negotiate in good faith.

Today’s bill, HR 4755, called the “Federal Aviation Administration Fair Labor Management Dispute Resolution Act of 2006,” is similar in language to a Senate bill introduced last month. It would create a three-step process for resolving an impasse:

A) MEDIATION – If the FAA does not reach agreement with the union, the parties will use the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to try and make a deal.

B) CONGRESSIONAL ACTION – If using FMCS does not result in an agreement, the FAA can send its contract offer to Congress, along with the union’s objections to the disputed portions of the offer. The FAA could not implement the offer unless a bill is enacted into law that specifically approves the offer.

C) BINDING ARBITRATION – If a bill is not enacted within 60 days of Congress receiving the FAA’s offer, the agency and the union must take their dispute to binding arbitration.

Joining Kelly and Costello in co-sponsoring the bill are Republicans Peter King, John McHugh, Jim Walsh, Sherwood Boehlert and John Sweeney of New York, Bob Ney of Ohio, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, Rob Simmons of Connecticut, Rick Renzi of Arizona, Jim Gerlach and Phil English of Pennsylvania, Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri and Geoff Davis of Kentucky, and Democrats Shelley Berkley of Nevada, Bill Pascrell, Frank Pallone and Bob Andrews of New Jersey, John Salazar of Colorado, Tim Holden of Pennsylvania, Peter DeFazio of Oregon, Adam Schiff and Mike Honda of California, Tim Bishop of New York, John Conyers of Michigan, Ed Pastor of Arizona, Michael Michaud of Maine, Melissa Bean and Danny Davis of Illinois, Rick Larsen of Washington and Leonard Boswell of Iowa.

“This is not a battle NATCA wanted to fight,” Carr said. “Given the choice, we would have selected the path of conciliation and cooperation. Unfortunately, the simple truth is that the FAA gave us no choice. Our most important goal – our only goal – is a fair settlement that will strengthen the aviation system.”

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