Update on FAA Reauthorization

As you know, the House and Senate have been considering their own versions of FAA reauthorization (H.R. 2997, S. 1405) for more than a year. Both bills had controversial provisions: the House privatized the air traffic control (ATC) system; the Senate reduced pilot training standards and prohibited trucker meal and rest breaks.

House Action
In late April, the House re-introduced its bill as H.R. 4, leaving out the controversial ATC privatization provision. Following re-introduction, H.R. 4 came to the House floor for debate and consideration during the final week of that month. The House considered more than 100 amendments and adopted 105 of them (full list of amendments is available here). TWU sent vote recommendations on seven of those amendments, including:

• Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA) amendment directing FAA to coordinate with government, educational institutions, businesses, and unions representing aviation maintenance workers to develop guidance or model curricula for certified aviation maintenance technician schools. TWU worked with Rep. Keating to ensure labor had a voice in the discussion. TWU recommended a YES vote; it passed.

• Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL) amendment directing the Government Accountability Office to study the effectiveness of the FAA Order on Compliance Philosophy, including whether reports of safety incidents increased after the order and whether reduced enforcement penalties increased overall safety incidents. TWU recommended a YES vote; it passed.

• Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR) amendment to improve aviation safety by permitting the Department of Transportation to regulate the safe transport of lithium batteries without having to wait for an accident to occur. TWU recommended a YES vote; it failed.

• Rep. Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) amendment to create/facilitate the Women in Aviation Advisory Board intended to promote organizations and programs that provide education, training, mentorship, outreach, and recruitment of women into the aviation industry. TWU recommended a YES vote; it passed.

• Rep. Steve King (R-IA) amendment to prohibit the use of funds authorized by the bill to be used to implement, administer, or enforce the prevailing wage requirements of Davis-Bacon. TWU recommended a NO vote; it failed.

• Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA) amendment to prohibit states from enacting laws or regulations concerning interstate truck drivers, thereby preventing these workers from benefiting from any state policy governing workplace rules. TWU recommended a NO vote; it passed.

• Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) amendment to eliminate the Essential Air Service Program (EAS), which provides air service to hundreds of small and rural communities across the U.S. TWU recommended a NO vote; it failed.

After considering all the amendments, the House voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill (393-13). TWU supported final passage of the bill. A summary of the notable provisions contained in this bill were described at length in a previous update that TWU sent to members and is also available here.

Trump Administration Department of Transportation
Notably, the Trump Administration Department of Transportation sent a letter to Members of Congress addressing the House and Senate bills, including some provisions important to TWU members. For instance, the DOT identified several provisions it considers ‘problematic’ such as “prescriptive, inflexible rest periods for flight attendants” (10-hour rest period). The letter also raises “significant concern” for the House bill provision intended to prevent the flag-of-convenience model from taking hold in the aviation industry. That provision would help prevent foreign airlines from being able to evade labor, tax, and safety laws by basing parts of its business in various countries in order to undermine competition.

Senate Action
As you know, the Senate has its own version of FAA reauthorization, S. 1405. A summary of the notable provisions contained in this bill were described at length in a previous update that TWU sent to members and is also available here.

At various moments over the past several months, the Senate has been expected to consider and vote on S. 1405 but for various reasons has not done so. The most recent expectation was for the Senate to consider its bill when it returned from the July 4th holiday recess. But due to the retirement of Supreme Court Justice Kennedy, the Senate likely will readjust its calendar to allow for a potential Supreme Court nomination vote. Because of that, the timeline for FAA bill action may be slipping to later in the month or during the August work period. At the time of writing, the Senate’s FAA schedule remains fluid.

Potential Steps Forward
If the Senate passes its version of FAA reauthorization, the Senate and House must work out the differences between their two bills (S. 1405 and H.R. 4) and produce one, identical bill. The two chambers will then have to vote and pass that compromise bill, and only then will new reauthorization become law.

Since all of that would need to occur before the current extension expires on September 30, it seems inevitable that Congress will need to pass another FAA extension. That extension could give Congress more time to reach a compromise bill or could extend FAA authority into next year when the new Congress is seated.

As this process unfolds, the TWU continues to communicate with congressional offices about timing and process, and to advocate for provisions important to TWU members and their livelihoods. We will continue to provide updates as warranted.