As you finalize the emergency supplemental conference report, I urge you to support an important provision included in the Senate-passed bill that would prevent the Department of Transportation (DOT) from changing long-standing rules to allow foreign interests to control U.S. airlines.
During Senate committee mark-up, an amendment supported by Senators Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Ted Stevens (R-AK) was adopted by voice vote to prevent the DOT from implementing a new rule. This language was retained when the bill was sent to the Senate floor demonstrating the considerable opposition this proposal has generated. The language specifically prohibits the DOT from using funds to implement a final rule to change foreign control rules through September 30. Without a strong directive from Congress, the Administration appears poised to implement this change without Congressional consideration or input.
It should be noted that the House is also on record voicing its concern with this proposal. The House supplemental appropriations bill included report language directing the DOT not to implement its rule for 120 days to allow for further Congressional review. Furthermore, a free-standing bipartisan bill in the House, H.R. 4542, introduced by Reps. Jim Oberstar (D-MN) and Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) has nearly 200 cosponsors.
The DOT has recently issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that makes minor changes to its original proposal and falls far short of easing the concerns expressed by Senators and Members of Congress, including those on this conference committee. The revised DOT proposal continues to run counter to the statutory requirement that U.S. citizens exercise “actual control” over U.S. airlines. Moreover, serious questions still remain about the proposal’s national security implications and nothing has been done to address core labor issues.
It is no secret that this rule change is being pursued by the Administration in an attempt to secure a new air services agreement with the European Union. While we support efforts to expand international opportunities that truly benefit U.S. aviation interests, making fundamental changes to our foreign control rules would simply do more harm than good. It is disappointing that in the Administration’s zeal to placate our trading and economic partners, it has offered a proposal that so clearly runs afoul of existing law and precedent, and jeopardizes our national and economic security.
The Administration’s proposal would also directly threaten the jobs and rights of the hundreds of thousands of workers we represent as companies are given yet another tool to seek out and utilize the lowest cost labor available. Desirable pilot positions could be lost to foreign airlines, flight attendants jobs outsourced, and carriers have already demonstrated a keen interest in sending as much maintenance work as possible to foreign contractors. Our members have, quite frankly, suffered enough economic pain in recent years and the prospects of another “race to the bottom” in terms of wages and working conditions is simply not in order.
It is critical that the Senate provision on foreign control of U.S. airlines be retained in conference. I urge you to support this language and protect the interests of U.S. aviation, its workers and our national security.