Will Republicans Shut Down The FAA Again To Help Delta’s Union Busting?

Once again Republicans are ready to shut down the FAA to help a union-busting effort by Delta Airlines. At issue is a provision added to the FAA funding reauthorization that changes the rules for union elections, saying that anyone not voting must be counted as a “no” vote. So if the company can just keep people from voting, the union loses even if everyone that shows up to vote says that they want a union.
Delta Airlines, called “The Official Airline of the One Percent,” is fighting to keep unions out, and Republicans — in their usual pay-for-play fashion — are assisting. The Washington Post, reporting recently in, Chances for long-term FAA funding bill seen as bleak, explained Delta’s interest,

It is a dispute over a labor ruling that would make it easier for employees of Delta Air Lines to unionize. House Republicans are dead set on undoing a ruling by the National Mediation Board, which said that airline unionization efforts should be decided by a majority of those who vote. The ruling negated a long-standing rule that said eligible voters who opted not to vote would be counted as voting against unionization.
The NMB ruling is expected to have its most immediate impact on Delta, which has so far staved off union organizers.

Last week, Talking Points Memo reported that, Just In Time For The Holidays: FAA Fight Heats Up …,

… the House and Senate are … supposed to pass long-term legislation to reauthorize FAA programs. But a dispute over worker rights has held up the bill for months and even led to a partial FAA shutdown earlier this year. Rinse, repeat.
Republicans want to make it more difficult for transportation workers to unionize by requiring officials to count abstentions as votes against forming a union. This provision underlies the stalemate between the House and Senate on a so-called permanent reauthorization.

TPM reports that the Communications Workers of America are asking people to contact specific members of Congress to ask them to set aside this union-busing effort and pass FAA funding.

The Communications Workers of America will target vulnerable Republicans with 1,300,000 phone calls, mailers, and an online pressure campaign, according to a release sent my way.
“It is beyond time to finalize a long-term FAA Reauthorization bill that improves our aviation infrastructure, grows our economy, creates hundreds of thousands of new jobs and keeps elections fair for air and rail employees,” the flyer reads. “Congress is very close to passing a long-term FAA Reauthorization bill – after 22 extensions! But Delta Air Lines continues to lobby Republican leadership to include an unrelated, controversial, union-busting provision in the legislation to benefit the company. Call your Member of Congress and House Leader Eric Cantor TODAY and tell them to stop playing political games and pass a clean, long-term FAA Reauthorization bill with no special interest provisions.”
The targeted members are below.

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA); Rep John Mica (R-FL); Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA); Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA); Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL); Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI); Rep. Blake Farenhold (R-TX); Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA); Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY); Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD); Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-NY); Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ); Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA); Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA); Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV); Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI); Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY); Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI); Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ); Rep. Charlie Bass (R-NH); Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-08)

According to and Aviation Week report, Angry Rockefeller Calls For Help In Passing FAA Reauthorization Bill, West Virginia Senator Jay Rockefeller talked about the FAA union-busting situation in a Nov 14 speech to the Aero Club in Washington, DC, [emphasis added]

Without naming the issues specifically, Rockefeller alluded to problems with a provision repealing National Mediation Board rules that has been blamed by members of both parties for holding up a resolution on the bill. And though Rockefeller in the past has blamed Delta Air Lines and its CEO, Richard Anderson, for the impasse, he restricted his comments Monday to “one airline” without naming the carrier. Rockefeller suggested that fixing the wording in the House version of the FAA bill is not in his purview because the Senate Commerce Committee does not have control over it.

The Communications Workers of America released this video:

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Government Shutdowns Get The 1% What They Want

zv7qrnb

A while back I was writing about the Republican threat of a government-wide shutdown, and the two-week Federal Aviation Administration shutdown (and Delta Airlines’ anti-union role in that). The shutdown threat was used to force the government to give even more favors and bucks to the 1% and even less to We, the People.
Guess what? The shutdown threats are back.
Last Time
Earlier this year, and then again in September, the Republicans threatened to block the budget from passing and to just let the government shut down. In exchange for allowing the government to continue to operate they wanted favors for the 1% and their corporations, including gutting environmental regulations, gutting healthcare (especially women’s healthcare), and generally gutting the things We, the People do for each other.
They largely got their way. They even shut down the FAA, stopping construction projects in an attempt to gut union organizing. Four thousand FAA workers and about 90,000 construction workers were laid off, and the shutdown cost the government about $30 million a day.
Which Was Which?
The Republican threat of shutting down the government is not to be confused with the debt-ceiling hostage-taking debacle that was engineered by Republicans.
The debt-ceiling hostage-taking involved Republicans threatening to let the government default on its obligations, sending the world’s economy into a tailspin, unless We, the People dramatically roll back the things we do for each other. They got their way, resulting in big cuts plus the “super committee” of the 1% that is currently working on cutting things for the 99%. (The secretive committee is actually talking about cutting Medicare and cutting top tax rates, and calling it “pro-growth.”)
FAA And Labor
In August Republicans shut down the FAA for two weeks, with Republicans trying to get in an anti-union rule. A temporary FAA reauthorization is currently funded only until the end of January. Last week Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, predicted that the FAA “reauthorization” bill would be done, passed and signed by Christmas.
But the anti-labor provision is still in the bill.
Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the fights over funding bills like this could “make a grown man cry.” According to The Hill, “We’re working on the 20th-plus extension” of the FAA bill, Mineta said during an interview with The Hill. “That’s something we really have to get resolved, and [with] a long-term bill.”
The Game Is Squeeze-The-Rubes
Here is how the squeeze-the-rubes game is played.
First, cut taxes for the rich. To accomplish this, call it “pro-growth,” make the claim that these cuts will “boost the economy” for the rubes, “bring them jobs,” or basically whatever they need to hear that week to get them to go along. Then borrow a ton of money to make up for the lost revenue, because when the debt comes due you have serious leverage.
Meanwhile, cut government, cut back on education for the rubes, health care for the rubes — they don’t need it, what are they going to do with educations and health, anyway? Cut regulation. Cut enforcement. And, most of all, do what you can to hamstring labor because organized labor is the one remaining force in the country that has some power, and is working to maintain the middle class. because with a strong middle class, government is able to pay down the debt, so there is no cover for all the cuts.
Then, to speed things up, boost the government’s spending on the things that increase your wealth and power. The big one is military. Find something to scare the rubes, watch them run and hide and squeal and let you crank up the military budget, give yourselves no-bid contracts, lucrative consulting contracts, even send pallets of cash to be disbursed to you and your friends.
And, by the way, tax subsidies for your oil and finance companies will drain the treasury pretty fast, too.
Then, when the bill comes due, that’s when the hammer comes down. That’s when you spring the trap. That’s when you can have real fun. You’ve got them where you want them, and you can go to work. Scare the bejeezus out of them with stories of insolvency, poverty, whatever it takes to make them fear the debt. And then crank up the demands.
Congress Plays Along
Members of Congress see this game of squeeze-the-rubes for what it is, and get what they can for themselves, too. Rep. Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, led the two-week FAA shutdown over that anti-union rule. (See The Hostage-Taking Just Keeps Coming – This Time The FAA Shuts Down, Think Default Threat Is A Yawn? The FAA Is Still Shut Down and Delta’s Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA)
Well, according to the Florida Independent, Mica, just months after being involved in the temporary shutdown over “spending” on the FAA was bragging about an FAA grant awarded to his district. Mica said he worked for a provision in that bill to keep unions from being able to organize “said he had used his vote as a ‘bargaining tool’ to gain the support of Senate Democrats” for the grant to his own district.
P.S. Take a look at where Rep. Mica gets the money to run his campaigns.
How The Game Is Played
Watch Jack Abramoff explain in a 60 Minutes segment how it works Once the member of Congress or staffer thinks they might get a lobbying job from you,

ABRAMOFF: When we would become friendly with an office and they were important to us, and the chief of staff was a competent person, I would say or my staff would say to him or her at some point, “You know, when you’re done working on the Hill, we’d very much like you to consider coming to work for us.” Now the moment I said that to them or any of our staff said that to ‘em, that was it. We owned them. And what does that mean? Every request from our office, every request of our clients, everything that we want, they’re gonna do. And not only that, they’re gonna think of things we can’t think of to do.

Perks, Too
Are airlines giving perks to members of Congress and staffers, as they prepare to vote on more favors for the 1%, possible shutdowns of government for the rest of us, even the FAA reauthorization? From Roll Call, Being in Congress Has Perks,

Most major airlines have phones lines dedicated to customers on Capitol Hill, aides and lobbyists told Roll Call. To accommodate their unpredictable travel schedules, Members are allowed to reserve seats on multiple flights but pay only for the one they board.
A spokesman for Delta confirmed the airline has a Congressional call desk and allows members to double-book flights. United Continental Holdings Inc., US Airways and American Airlines, all of which are rumored to have similar practices, did not return Roll Call’s request for comment.
“We get on every single flight,” said one Capitol Hill aide familiar with process. “Every offices uses it. … The scheduler uses it for Members and chiefs of staff who fly.”
The perks have long raised the ire of consumer advocates. “They are treated completely differently from the time they book their ticket until the time they land at the airport,” said Kate Hanni, director of Flyers Rights, an airline passenger advocacy organization.

Short Run Good For 1%, Long Run Bad For 99%
In the short run this game yields great riches to a few. In the long run, of course, getting rid of government defunds infrastructure and education so the economy eventually slows to a crawl. Pitting the parts of the citizenry against each other breeds social chaos, maybe even violence.
What do they care, when they can just hop in their own jots and fly to their own private islands?
Government is us: We, the People. Our government of the people, by the people and for the people exists to reign in the1% and act as a counterweight to the power of their wealth and their huge corporations. That is why We, the People formed our government, to counter the corrupt controlling power of the British King and his aristocracy. That is why we enabled organized labor. That is why we have regulations. That is why we have access to courts to sue giant corporations. It is about one-person-one-vote democracy, not one-dollar-one-vote plutocracy.
What You Can Do
Tell Delta: Stop The Union Busting,

Delta Air Lines is holding billions of dollars in funding for crucial FAA projects hostage by insisting that Congress pass new, undemocratic rules for airline workers trying to organize a union. Delta wants union elections to count workers who don’t take part as voting “No”–an absurd demand that would undermine the entire system of majority-rule voting.
The rules are under debate now, Delta’s powerful allies in Congress are holding up a long-term solution by continuing to insist on the new election rule.
Without a long-term reauthorization bill, job-creating airport infrastructure projects and critical security improvements are on hold. And we run the risk of another FAA shutdown at the end of the year.

Thursday National Day Of Action
Many organizations are calling for a national day of action Thursday Nov. 17, with various events around the country.
Follow the Twitter hashtag #N17 for info.
Occupy Wall Street, on Thursday’s Day Of Action
Interfaith Worker Justice: National Days of Action Against Wage Theft
Check out this We Are The 99% event Thursday,

We’re starting to get the 1% to pay attention. But this system’s still rigged against us: Wall Street is still making billions and taking our homes, and Congress can’t pass a jobs bill. To amplify the economic emergency, we’re making Thursday, November 17, a massive day of action to show “We Are The 99%.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.

Delta’s Greed Helps Shut Down The FAA

You probably don’t know that another act of hostage-taking by Republicans is underway. They have shut down the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to help Delta Airlines in its battle to keep its workers from voting in a union. This is costing the government $200 million a week, more than 4,000 FAA employees have been furloughed, and as many as 87,000 construction workers and other contractors around the country are being laid off. The agency has been shut down for more than a week and so far the Republicans have refused to let it open before Congress leaves town for the summer. All this apparently so one company can keep employees who want a union from winning an election.
The FAA is the agency that regulates and overseas civil aviation. That is airports, airlines, pilots, employees, air traffic control, and other components of our aviation system. But the agency has been shut down. FAA inspectors and others are working without pay and paying for their own job-related travel. The shutdown is keeping the FAA from collecting federal taxes on airline tickets at a cost of $200 million in revenues each week even as the country struggles with deficits. Republicans said they don’t like deficits, but they clearly hate working people more – this shutdown adds $30 million a day, over $200 million a week to deficits.
A Shutdown Engineered For A Company
This shutdown of the FAA has occurred because of a form of “government shutdown” by Republicans, at the behest of Delta Airlines, over rules about unionization elections. Delta is in the middle of a fight to keep workers from being able to form a union. Delta wants the rules changes so a nonvoting worker, including one who might be sick, on vacation or otherwise absent from the workplace on election day, is counted as a “no” vote for unionization. Republicans inserted this anti-union language into the FAA funding reauthorization and are refusing to fund the agency unless Democrats agree to change these union election rules to help Delta.
Delta is apparently calling in favors to get this. According to Campaign Money Watch, in Is Delta Using Its Campaign Cash to Influence the FAA Debate?,

Delta’s been spending money wisely to try to overturn the decision to let workers organize more easily. They spent $1.6 million on lobbying during the first half of 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. (Over the past ten years they spent at least $32 million to influence Washington.) Their PAC has given $826,243 to members of Congress since 2000. Adding additional incentive for Republicans in Congress to stand with them, Richard Anderson, Delta’s CEO, made a $5,000 contribution to the Senate Republican’s campaign committee earlier this year — apparently his first one ever.

Not Delta’s First Anti-Labor Problems
This is hardly the beginning of anti-labor activities by Delta’s management. There has been a string of actions against its workers to the point that the government has had to step in. WSJ: Delta Probed on Union Drive,

The National Mediation Board said Wednesday it will conduct a full-blown investigation into allegations by a flight attendants union that Delta Air Lines Inc. interfered in last year’s fractious organizing drive at the world’s second-largest airline by traffic.

Joan McCarter elaborates in Daily Kos in June, Delta Air’s anti-union practices earns federal probe,

Delta isn’t just a crappy airline for passengers, it’s a crappy employer, too. At least it is if you can judge by the lengths it has gone to to prevent fairness in the workplace. Around the World Blog has some of the gory details of Delta’s extreme anti-union activities:

  • Open advocacy against fair American elections: Delta issued a press release commending the news that Darrell Issa’s deranged Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will investigate the NMB’s 2010 decision to conduct union elections for air/rail workers the same as all other types of American elections. … Unfortunately for Delta, the facts aren’t on their side — there’s no reason to conduct NMB elections differently from every other form of election, union or non-union, in the nation. ….
  • Bumping paying customers…so Delta employees can lobby: Delta is so committed to its anti-union ideology that it offered its employees the chance to travel to Washington to lobby against fair union elections under a provision that may bump paying customers. …

It goes beyond, however, a general fight against the rights of airline and railroad employees to organize, to a very specific fiht among Delta employees to organize. The airline’s fight against that union drive has made the airline a target for federal investigators.

“Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines.” Joe Sudbay sums up Delta management’s attitude at AmericaBlog:

“Delta is like the Scott Walker of airlines. It wants to be known as anti-worker. And, of course, the GOPers in Congress are great allies in that quest. They’ll join together to fight this investigation and undermine NMB.”

Two Senators Weigh In On Delta And FAA Shutdown
In an NPR report, Reid Says FAA Shutdown Will Continue; Blames House, Delta Airlines, Senate Majority Leader Reid explains,

“It’s not a battle over essential air service. It’s a battle over Delta Airlines, who refuses to allow votes under the new rules that have been passed by the NLRB [National Labor Relations Board].” The issue, Reid says, is Delta’s “non-union” stance. The bill to fund the FAA, as crafted by House Republicans, includes language that sets new rules for aviation workers’ votes on labor representation.

Senator Rockeffeller, in a USA Today op-ed, Rural America needs Essential Air Service, talks about Delta’s attack on workers rights,

Unfortunately, the Republican House is holding the FAAhostage and using the EAS program to distract from its acknowledged goal: overturning a workers’ rights rule that makes sense and has been upheld in court.
This ugly backroom deal is the work of Delta Air Lines’ anti-worker allies in the House. They want to overturn a decision of the National Mediation Board that allows airline and railroad workers to organize with their votes counted the regular way — yes and no — rather than by counting people who don’t participate at all in the election.
Delta lost in court, and so it lobbied the Republican House leadership for help. That now involves blocking critical FAA legislation and attacking the EAS program, which creates jobs and economic opportunity in small communities by giving business access to travel.

Delta Greed Also Not Good For Customers
Delta’s management provides us an example of what happens to a company that prioritizes greed over all else. We see a company that is not just bad for its workers, it is also bad for its customers. Here are examples.
Greed: When the FAA shutdown meant that taxes would not be collected some airlines let their customers keep the money. But not Delta’s management — they decided to keep that extra cash for themselves. Memphis Business Journal, Delta raises ticket prices amid FAA shutdown,

Air travelers are getting a break from federal taxes as the Federal Aviation Administration has partially shut down, but some airlines, including Delta Air Lines Inc. , have raised fares and nullified the tax break. … While some airlines will allow customers to take advantage of the tax break, others, like Delta, have increased fares following the shutdown…

Greed: Amanda Terkel at Huffington Post: Delta Charges U.S. Troops Returning From Afghanistan $2,800 In Baggage Fees,

Delta Air Lines is facing intense criticism after charging 34 U.S. soldiers returning from Afghanistan $2,800 in baggage fees.
The incident came to light on Tuesday after a couple of the new-media savvy soldiers recorded a video about their ordeal and posted it on YouTube.

Greed: According to Delta Nightmares, a website devoted to describing Delta’s bad customer service,

I’m apparently not the only one who thinks so. According to this article in the Wall Street Journal, Delta is having serious issues…ranking LAST among major carriers in customer service last year.

…among major airlines Delta finished with the highest rate of customer complaints filed with the Department of Transportation in the first nine months of last year, and was second-to-last in on-time arrivals and baggage handling through November. Delta also had the highest rate of canceled flights among major carriers in 2010, according to FlightStats.com.

Greed: Delta has earned the #65 place in BNet’s Business Blunders of the Year for offering a $200 flight credit after losing a customer’s dog.

“Delta told Josiah Paco had “escaped” and the best they could do is refund his $200.00 pet transportation fee, but only as a “credit” for future Delta travel. That doesn’t do Josiah any good, as he’s vowed to never fly Delta again”

Greed: just Google Delta Airlines bad customer service and see the thousands and thousands of results that pop up…
Part Of Larger Anti-Worker Campaign
This effort by Republicans in Congress is really just a part of a larger fight against workers’ rights. As we have seen in several states, most notably Wisconsin, this is a coordinate, all-out attack by the larger corporations and their allies in the Republican Party. New Jersey, as just one more example, just passed, and Governor Christie signed an anti-union bill. In Ohio there is a campaign to repeal a law restricting collective bargaining rights. In Florida it is revealed that ALEC was behind the state’s anti-union legislation efforts. In Missouri large protest turnouts beat back anti-union legislation.
FAA Still Shut Down
So the FAA is still shut down, possibly until September when the Congress returns. This is the Tea Party dream, government destroyed, financed and pushed by private companies, this time Delta Airlines. Delta is showing itself as a model of bad corporate behavior. Delta couldn’t keep their workers from joining a union, so they try to get the laws rigged. Meanwhile the Republicans are showing themselves willing to contract out their legislative power to the highest bidders.
Delta Airlines is certainly not the only example of bad, greed-inspired behavior by corporate management these days — far from it. But with the FAA shutdown over Delta’s request for a rule to keep its workers from being able to unionize Delta is putting itself forward as a top example of bad corporate behavior.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
Sign up here for the CAF daily summary.