Chairman John Thune (R-ND) announced the Senate will take-up FAA Reauthorization over the next few weeks – potentially good news for aviation workers. But the details of this bill matter and are still being worked out by Senate leaders. If done right, FAA Reauthorization can and should advance important safety priorities, protect U.S. jobs from unfair foreign competition, and provide funding levels needed to operate a safe and efficient air traffic control network.
The House-passed bill — approved overwhelmingly and on a bi-partisan basis — generally got it right on worker and safety priorities and can provide the Senate with a template on how to move forward. The goal must be to pass a final FAA bill that creates and sustains good, safe, middle-class jobs and supports our vast commercial aviation sector that is critical to our broader economy.
Adequate Rest for Flight Attendants
Multiple studies have shown the best way to combat fatigue among flight attendants is to change the rules that govern rest periods. For far too long, a minimum of 10 hours of rest between duty hours — a protection that was afforded to passenger pilots in 2011 — has eluded our nation’s flight attendants. By mandating adequate rest for flight attendants and requiring the FAA to conduct a fatigue risk management study, the House bill takes a step toward ensuring these workers have the rest they need to do their jobs. Lawmakers in the Senate need to step up and fight for the wellbeing of flight attendants and the crew and passengers they are responsible for by securing a minimum of 10 hours of rest for these workers.
Rejecting Flag of Convenience Carriers
By enabling low-road airlines to skirt laws, taxes, and labor standards they don’t agree with, this perverse business model undermines fair competition and threatens the good, middle-class jobs found in our nation’s aviation industry. This business model also violates our aviation trade agreement with the European Union, but to date has not been properly enforced. Preventing flag of convenience from flourishing in our nation’s aviation industry is crucial to upholding the integrity of American commercial aviation and the good jobs it creates. We call on the Senate to put this threat to bed once and for all by adopting a provision in the House bill that requires the Department of Transportation to uphold and enforce our aviation trade agreements and promote high-road labor standards.
Assaults Against Customer Service Agents
The rising trend in violent assaults against customer service agents at our nation’s airports is not acceptable. Too often, customers who verbally berate and physically batter these employees face no repercussions for their actions. By requiring airlines to develop assault prevention and response plans, and ensuring employees and managers know what to do if and when assaults occur, the House version of the FAA bill applies a commonsense, effective approach to a disturbing problem. The Senate bill that passed through Committee contains similar language, and we will fight for a final bill that provides the strongest protections for our nations customer service agents.
Maintaining Pilot Training and Qualification Requirements
Senators must reject efforts to roll back the pilot training and qualification rules that were adopted in 2010 in response to a spate of deadly crashes in the U.S. airspace. Adoption of these rules led to an unprecedented period of aviation safety, and yet some special interests have sought to undermine these standards in the name of increased profits. To do this would be irresponsible and shortsighted, yet the Senate Commerce Committee adopted an amendment during their markup that would do just that. We are pleased Chairman Thune has indicated he will remove this anti-safety provision from the bill and we will fight efforts to re-introduce this issue as the FAA bill moves through the process.
Other Safety Protections
Requiring secondary barriers on all newly constructed aircraft, banning in-flight cell phone calls, establishing sensible standards to flying with service animals, and ensuring the safe transport of lithium batters are all ways the House version of the FAA bill promotes safety within our nation’s aviation industry. We encourage Senators to adopt these common sense, pro-safety measures.
Single-Pilot Cargo Operations
Unfortunately, this is an area in the House version of the FAA bill where lawmakers failed working people. No amount of technology or machines can make up for the experience two qualified, trained pilots bring to the cockpit. Allowing commercial cargo operations to experiment with planes piloted by a single crewmember, which the House bill does, jeopardizes both safety and good jobs. It is crucial the Senate push back on this dangerous idea and keep this language out of their version of the legislation.
Eliminating Meal and Rest Breaks for Truck Drivers
An absurd proposal that has no place in an FAA Reauthorization Bill would exempt truck drivers from local wage laws, meal and rest break laws, paid sick and family leave, and minimum wage, among other protections. There is no reason for Congress to interfere with state and local laws that protect truck drivers. Senators must treat this provision as dead upon arrival.
Our nation’s aviation industry moves two million people every day, accounts for $1.5 trillion in economic activity, and supports nearly 12 million jobs. It is critical that FAA Reauthorization will enhance safety and service and promote good jobs. Now is the time to pass FAA Reauthorization that will make improvements to a system that is so important to this country and economy.