WASHINGTON, D.C. – Attempts to reverse fair election rules for rail and aviation workers, and the mounting crisis at mass transit agencies across the country, are top priorities of transportation labor, as discussed yesterday at the winter meeting of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
Basic fairness and fundamentally democratic elections are on the line with a provision in the House aviation bill that aims to repeal union election rules issued just last year by the National Mediation Board (NMB). TTD’s executive committee agreed that it will not support an FAA bill that includes the NMB rule repeal measure. Failure to remove it not only threatens the rights of workers, but jeopardizes a long-overdue bill whose final passage has been delayed 17 times.
“Today, the NMB allows a majority of workers who participate in the election to decide the outcome, because non-participation is no longer tallied as a vote against the union,” said Edward Wytkind, President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “Automatically assigning meaning to votes that aren’t cast is a ridiculous policy that was overturned last year and upheld by federal court. It must not be reinstated now.”
The struggling economy has blown a hole in the budgets of transit agencies nationwide. With layoffs, fare increases or reductions in service at more than 85 percent of mass transit agencies across the country, more must be done to preserve mass transit in America. Transit agencies need flexibility to use federal dollars for operational expenses such as payroll, instead of just for capital needs like equipment. Transportation labor will work for operating assistance flexibility that is triggered by and tied to unemployment rates and rising gas prices. This is good not only for transit workers – in every corner of the country, Americans rely on public transportation.
“America faces a transit crisis that threatens thousands of jobs and reliable transportation for millions of Americans in cities of all sizes,” Wytkind said. “As we’ve always said, a new bus parked in the garage doesn’t do anyone any good if there aren’t any drivers to operate it or mechanics to maintain it.”
There are several transportation reauthorization bills that are overdue that will be engines of job growth and must not be delayed further. According to recent estimates, the FAA bill will create as many as 300,000 jobs. This bill can and must improve safety, honor worker rights, and invest in the modern, 21st Century aviation system our nation and economy require. The multi-year surface transportation bill is one of the largest job-creating bills that Congress writes. It stands to create as many as 6 million jobs, yet it is 18 months overdue. Transportation labor applauds the $556 billion robust funding level for this bill as proposed by the President in his budget, as well as his aggressive stance on enforcing Buy America domestic content requirements in our federal transportation investment programs.
“With more than 14 million still out of work, Americans are counting on this Congress and state leaders to support policies that create jobs and fix the economy,” Wytkind said. “Those who propose reckless cuts to vital transportation investment programs as a way to score political points in the budget deficit debate will fail to deliver what America needs most: jobs.”
Recently, the maritime industry has suffered from a combination of ideological attacks on labor, imprudent budget cuts, inadequate port investments, and misinterpretations of cargo preference requirements. Opponents of U.S. maritime cabotage law, known as the Jones Act, claimed that it prevented foreign vessels from providing relief assistance to the cleanup efforts for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This was pure fiction, and an attempt to demonize unions to benefit foreign shipping interests. Eliminating our maritime cabotage requirements would mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, and further erode the U.S. Merchant Marine. Moreover, a vibrant maritime industry capable of growing cargo demand and sustaining U.S. jobs is integral to both our economic recovery and nation’s security interests.
Amtrak plays an essential role in our national transportation network. Now is the time to invest in our national railroad’s operating and capital needs, support its skilled and dedicated employees, and ensure that it plays a central role in delivering high speed rail. Transportation labor is heartened by President Obama’s unprecedented commitment to passenger rail and giving it the resources it needs to succeed.
A recent increase in reported incidents involving shining high-powered lasers into aircraft cockpits is an escalating threat to aviation safety – and should concern all modes of transportation. TTD supports federal legislation to prosecute those who intentionally shine a laser at aircraft. In addition, TTD urges the National Transportation Safety Board to add deliberate laser illuminations aimed at all modes of transportation to its Most Wanted Safety Improvements. And in order to ensure the safety of aircraft and its occupants, the air shipment of lithium batteries must be fully regulated as dangerous goods.
For more information on all of transportation labor’s priority issues discussed yesterday, please visit the TTD website for a complete list of approved policy statements.
The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit www.ttd.org.