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Airport Funding Bill Grounded By Union Issue

March 10, 2010 - by Eric Naing

A measure that would provide billions to fund the Federal Aviation Administration and modernize airport infrastructure is being held up over a provision that would allow FedEx workers to unionize as easily as UPS workers.

The House last summer passed the FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R.915) that, among several things, would reauthorize funding for the FAA, provide $70 billion for airport infrastructure and update pilot training standards. The most controversial part the bill, however, is a provision that would make it easier for some FedEx employees to unionize.

Since FedEx was founded as an airline, its workers are governed by the 1926 Railway Labor Act, which as Business Week explains, “carries a difficult path to unionization that requires a national vote by every worker at a company, and doesn’t allow for organizing at a local, terminal-by-terminal level.” UPS workers, and most private sectors workers in general, are governed by the National Labor Relations Act, which presents workers with fewer obstacles should they want to form a union.

UPS, the Teamsters and other labor organizations support the provision but FedEx is pulling out all the stops to prevent it from becoming law. As part of a multi-million dollar campaign, FedEx is falsely claiming that the unionization provision amounts to an unfair government “bailout” of UPS. Regardless of how one feels about labor, the facts of the debate show that FedEx just doesn’t want their workers to have the same ability to unionize as employees at UPS and most private sector companies throughout the nation do.

A Senate version of the FAA Reauthorization Act (S.1451) has been stalled for months over this issue and it doesn’t even include the unionization provision.

Leading the charge against the bill in the Senate is the delegation from Tennessee: Sen. Bob Corker [R, TN] and Sen. Lamar Alexander [R, TN]. FedEx is headquartered in Tennessee and has been a major donor to both senators.

Corker and Alexander have placed a hold on the bill to ensure that the unionization provision is not included when the House and Senate bills are reconciled.

The FAA was last reauthorized in 2003 and a series of temporary extension measures have kept the agency from shutting down since then. Should this measure become law, funding for the agency would be secure until 2012.

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