America’s federal surface transportation program supports the world’s largest economy across a complex, multimodal network, inclusive of nearly 9 million miles of road, more than 600,000 bridges, and public transportation systems that support about 10 billion trips annually.
The beginning of the 116th Congress was marred by one of the most self-defeating legislative escapades of this century: the 35-day partial government shutdown. This shutdown, the longest in history, wreaked havoc on our transportation system, forced federal workers and contractors to stay at home or work without pay, and cost our economy billions of dollars that we will never get back. In the aviation sector alone, the strain placed on air traffic controllers, FAA safety inspectors and system specialists, and Transportation Security Officers (TSOs) undermined the safety and security standards that we know are critical to this network. Asking these and other federal workers to go without pay for over a month, not knowing when their next paycheck would come or how they would provide for their families, is simply unacceptable.
150 years ago this May 10th, Leland Stanford put the finishing touch on one of our nation’s crowning infrastructure achievements: the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad. The workers who built the railroad would likely have been unable to imagine the vast, interconnected transportation network we enjoy today, complete with cars, highways, subways and air travel. Yet as we approach the sesquicentennial of the Golden Spike, rail remains a vital part of our transportation network and an important economic driver.
At a time when working people are turning to collective action to amplify their voice at a level not seen in years, and as our economy remains plagued by seemingly immovable wage inequality, federal officials should pursue policies to protect the rights of employees to come together and bargain collectively. Instead, two of the three members of the National Mediation Board (NMB) are taking the exact opposite approach at the expense of aviation and rail workers covered by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). In early 2019, the NMB proposed a rule intended to make it easier to remove unions from worksites already represented and covered by a collective bargaining agreement. While board members in favor of the rule talk about the need to ensure “freedom of association among employees,” we know this is just another attempt at union busting and has no place in any serious discussion about how to grow and support good middle-class jobs.
In 2017 alone, 10,615 victims of human trafficking were identified by reports to the National Human Trafficking Hotline. When traveling, those victims may appear fearful, anxious, or submissive. They may show signs of physical abuse, exhaustion, or confinement; or simply present poor hygiene. Often, they will not handle their own travel documents and will avoid contact with other travelers or authorities. While these indicators of human trafficking may go unnoticed by the general public, well-trained transportation workers are in a powerful position to see what is hidden in plain sight.
In the fall of last year, Congress achieved an increasingly rare feat: passage of a major, long-term reauthorization bill with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 is a shining example of what can be accomplished when partisan bickering is set aside and lawmakers come together to advance policies that will benefit the American people. The bill made critical investments in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the National Airspace System (NAS), and included several provisions long fought for by TTD and its affiliates that will advance aviation safety and improve working conditions for employees. As a result, the bill was endorsed by transportation labor as well as much of industry, and was ultimately passed 398-23 in the House and 93-6 in the Senate and was signed into law on October 5, 2018.
Despite years of protest, thousands of U.S. airline catering workers remain in poverty. Primarily serving American, United and Delta, unionized airline catering workers make as low as $8.40 an hour and a majority earn less than $15, including hundreds with over 30 years of experience. Only 34% of workers at the two largest airline-catering subcontractors were covered by employer-provided health insurance in 2018. Workers are demanding that One Job Should Be Enough for them to survive. Poverty must end in this industry once and for all, and workers must be able to afford healthcare for themselves and their families without relying on government aid.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), and our 32 affiliated unions, I want to first thank Chairman Wicker and Ranking Member Cantwell for inviting me to testify before you today.
These are difficult political times in America.
Every day, we hear more and more divisive rhetoric and unwavering points of view here in Washington, D.C., on the news, over social media, and in our communities. The effects of digging our heels in hurt every single American. It drives a wedge between friends and family members. It drives a wedge between neighbors. And it makes us forget that the people ten states or even just one county over have the same desire we do for a good job and peace of mind for our families.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) and our 32 affiliated unions, I want to first thank Chairman DeFazio and Ranking Member Graves for inviting me to testify before you today. And let me offer my congratulations to the new and returning members of this committee.
Each of you asked to serve on this committee because you recognize the incredible and important role our transportation network plays in creating and sustaining good paying jobs and facilitating the world’s most advanced economy.
And, more often than not, this committee demonstrates to the American people that party affiliations in Washington, D.C. can represent a wealth of good ideas, and not just lines in the sand.
Your willingness to work across those lines, which too often divide us as a country, was evident last year when you passed a long-term reauthorization of our nation’s air transportation programs and when you continued the committee’s tradition of funding our water resources projects. It was also evident three years ago when you passed a five-year reauthorization of our transit, highway, and rail programs.
On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I ask that you vote YES on the Continuing Resolution to open the government until February 8th. TTD unions represent hundreds of thousands of federal transportation workers who have either been furloughed or working without pay for over a month and are now at risk of missing their second consecutive paycheck. This short-term CR will make these dedicated public servants whole and allow them to continue to work on behalf of the American public while allowing Congress and the Administration further time to solve the underlying conflict that has led to this unfortunate shutdown.
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