A U.S. House panel approved $59.7 billion of aviation funding after narrowly defeating a provision to aid unions in organizing workers at U.S. carriers including Delta Air Lines Inc.
The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted 30-29 against the provision proposed by Representative Jerry Costello, an Illinois Democrat. It would have maintained a rule change made last year to let workers form unions with a majority of those who vote, rather than requiring approval from most workers in a class.
The Federal Aviation Administration legislation was then approved 34-25 by the Republican-controlled panel and sent to the House floor. The provision scuttling the Democrat-controlled National Mediation Board’s rule change was inserted into the FAA legislation by its author John Mica, the Florida Republican who heads the transportation committee.
Lawmakers are trying to enact the FAA legislation, more than three years overdue, before the latest of 17 temporary extensions of the law funding the agency expires March 31. The House plan would fund the FAA for four years.
Costello called the provision “outrageous” and “unfair.” He said it would be tantamount to counting every person who abstains from voting in a congressional election as a “no” vote. He said the provision could kill the underlying FAA bill due to opposition from the Senate and President Barack Obama.
Mica said the federal law that allows rail and airline workers to organize unions worked “very well” for 75 years before the labor board made its change last May. “This is also about fairness,” he said of his provision.
FedEx Corp., JetBlue Airways Corp., AirTran Holdings Inc. and Alaska Air Group Inc. have opposed the mediation board’s rule change along with Delta, which is the least unionized of the largest passenger carriers.
Mica’s bill would also end a $200 million federal program that subsidizes rural air service, hurting a revenue stream for regional airlines led by Great Lakes Aviation Ltd. Mica’s proposal excludes Alaska.
Mica said he would work with opponents on possible modifications as the bill advances.
The Senate version of the FAA funding law is pending on the floor of that body. The differing bills would have to be reconciled in a conference committee before being re-approved by each body and sent to Obama to sign into law.
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