TTD, AFA-CWA, IAM and TWU Urge DOT to Uphold Airline Labor Standards

BEFORE THE
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
WASHINGTON, DC

Application of

Docket No. OST-2013-0204

NORWEGIAN AIR INTERNATIONAL
LIMITED                                                                 

for an exemption under 49 U.S.C. § 40109
and a foreign air carrier permit pursuant to
49 U.S.C. § 41301 (US-EU Open Skies)               


JOINT REPLY COMMENTS OF
THE ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS-CWA,
THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MACHINISTS AND AEROSPACE WORKERS
THE TRANSPORT WORKERS UNION OF AMERICA AND
THE TRANSPORTATION TRADES DEPARTMENT, AFL-CIO

The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA), the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the Transport Workers Union (TWU), and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) submit this reply to comments filed in response to DOT’s August 4 Notice (“Notice”) requesting comments on the views expressed by DG MOVE on the meaning and applicability of Article 17 bis of the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement (ATA).

TTD also submitted a joint reply to comments along with the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the European Cockpit Association (ECA). This reply associates itself with and supports that filing, and provides additional thoughts.

For those of us who have been closely following Norwegian Air International’s application with the DOT for an exemption and foreign air operator certificate, the comments filed in reply to the Notice provide a clear picture for what is at stake with this application and for the future of transatlantic aviation. The comments filed by NAI and its supporters are straightforward in how they believe Article 17 bis should be applied. In short: it shouldn’t be, at least in any meaningful way.

This interpretation is inherently flawed, however, as detailed in comments filed by our unions, as well as those filed by ALPA, ECA, ETF, and several U.S. and European airlines. It is our contention that not only is Article 17 bis enforceable, and provides the legal basis for denying NAI’s application, but that it is central to the spirit and intent of the U.S.-EU ATA. Indeed, the preamble to the 2010 Protocol amending the ATA states the broad goals of the parties: “opening access to markets and maximizing benefits for consumers, airlines, labour and communities on both sides of the Atlantic.” (Emphasis added). Maximizing benefits to workers stands side by side with the other goals of the ATA.

Article 17 bis is the social provision designed to ensure that the spirit of the agreement, as it pertains to worker rights and benefits, is upheld as the ATA is implemented. The argument that Article 17 bis cannot be unilaterally used to deny an application under the agreement undermines the text of the provision, the spirit of the ATA and ignores the well stated intent of the parties when the agreement was signed. This intent is illustrated by the June 24, 2010 press statement of EC Commissioner Siim Kallas which says in part: “For the first time in aviation history, the agreement includes a dedicated article on the social dimension of EU-US aviation relations. This will not only ensure that the existing legal rights of airline employees are preserved, but that the implementation of the agreement contributes to high labour standards.”

In this context, the claims by NAI on the applicability and enforcement of Article 17 bis are, at best, revisionist history. To support its claims NAI included in its comments a Joint Declaration by John Byerly and Daniel Calleja, who led the U.S. and European negotiating teams, respectively. The declaration claims that Article 17 bis was not intended to “provide a legal basis for unilaterally denying an application” under the agreement. However, as detailed in the joint reply filed by TTD, ALPA and ECA, this intention is being disclosed for the first time now – nearly four years later. This was not disclosed at any time during the negotiating process, and had it been, we would not have supported the agreement.

It is also important to note that Mr. Byerly did not disclose in the Joint Declaration that he is currently employed by NAI as a paid registered lobbyist to work on its behalf. As such, this statement of intent should be viewed by DOT not as that of a former government official, but rather as a paid advocate for NAI. We believe that the text of the agreement and the statements made by government officials when the agreement was signed provide a more accurate assessment of the intent of negotiators and the provisions embodied in the agreement.

At no point it its August 18, 2014 comments does NAI deny our assertion that its proposed business model would undermine labor standards. Nor does it deny that this business model violates the terms of Article 17 bis. The airline’s argument is simply that Article 17 bis is not enforceable. As shown by our comments, as well as those filed by a diverse group of stakeholders on both sides of the Atlantic, that interpretation is false.

We urge DOT to uphold its legal obligation to enforce the U.S.-EU ATA in its totality, and deny NAI’s application for a permit and exemption.

Sincerely,

Sara Nelson
International President
Association of Flight Attendants-CWA

Sito Pantoja
General Vice President
International Association of Machinists and
Aerospace Workers

Harry Lombardo
President
Transport Workers Union of America

Edward Wytkind
President
Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO

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Transportation Labor Encourages U.S. and EU Delegations to Fully Enforce Critical Labor Protections

Washington, DC – Today, Edward Wytkind commented on the U.S.-EU government-to-government meeting held in Brussels, Belgium on the legal meaning and applicability of Article 17 bis of the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement.

“We were pleased to see that the U.S. and EU had scheduled a meeting to discuss Article 17 bis of the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement, and its applicability in cases such as Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) application under the agreement. Transportation labor fought hard to ensure that this important labor protection article was included in the second stage negotiations, which were concluded in 2010. At that time, U.S. and European officials praised the article as an important step forward, with European Commission Vice-President for Transportation, Siim Kallas, stating that the article ‘will not only ensure that the existing legal rights of airline employees are preserved, but that the implementation of the agreement will contribute to high labour standards.’

Now, more than ever, we believe that the full enforcement of this article is critical to the successful implementation of the Agreement and the continued health and expansion of the transatlantic aviation marketplace. Importantly, Congress agrees. The U.S. House of Representatives recently unanimously passed an amendment stating that no application shall be granted if it violates Article 17 bis or U.S. public interest law, and the Senate is poised to follow suit.

We have stated unequivocally that the proposed flag of convenience scheme being peddled by NAI directly violates Article 17 bis, and is in fact the very type of market-distorting gimmick that negotiators intended to prevent.

As U.S. and EU officials meet to discuss how article 17 bis ‘applies to carriers seeking either U.S. or EU authorizations under the ATA,’ we are hopeful that they will come to this same conclusion. We look forward to seeing the full summary of today’s meeting, and are eager to offer our comments as we work together to ensure that the U.S. and European airlines and workers can continue to compete on a balanced playing field, and one where NAI’s flag of convenience scheme has no place.”

CONTACT: Elizabeth Weinberg, elizabethw@ttd.org, 202-628-9262

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President Urges Immediate Action to Avert Summer Collapse of the Highway Trust Fund

TTD was proud to stand with President Obama yesterday at the foot of Key Bridge – a major artery of commercial and commuter traffic connecting Virginia to Washington D.C. But this bridge is “structurally deficient,” and like so much of our vast transportation system, is in need of significant investment and repair. With workers and equipment standing by, the President used this bridge to highlight the need to avoid a summer collapse of the Highway Trust Fund and to find a longer-term plan to put Americans back to work fixing and operating our deteriorating surface transportation system.

Here are the facts. Without action by Congress, the Highway Trust Fund will become insolvent and thus unable to finance investments in transit systems, roads, bridges and highway safety. Why? Policy makers have for years failed to fix a financing system that is simply broken and now the Trust Fund will run out of money in a few short weeks. If we let this happen, transportation construction projects that support thousands of good jobs will be put on hold, local transit services could be cut and long overdue upgrades in commuter rail will be further delayed. In this still fragile economy, self-inflicted wounds are the last thing we need. Yet this seems to be the path some Tea Party stalwarts want to pursue.

Yesterday, Department of Transportation Secretary Foxx told state and local transportation agencies that checks from the federal government that support construction and run buses and trains will be reduced to a bi-monthly basis and paid only as gas tax money comes in. This is not the way a modern economy goes about the serious business of meeting its transportation needs and restoring economic growth.

There is some good news. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has announced his panel will consider a short-term fix to the Trust Fund next week. To his credit, Chairman Wyden has been more than willing to work with his Republican colleagues to find a solution to this avoidable crisis. But to no one’s surprise, cooperation from key Republican leaders has been a little hard – ok, very hard – to find. That needs to change soon. If not, Members of Congress are going to have to tell thousands of unemployed transportation and construction workers why their political agenda is more important than good, middle-class jobs and a functioning transportation system.

For our part, we have endorsed several different funding proposals to pay for both our immediate and long-term transportation needs, including an increase in the federal fuels tax, which has been stagnant for over 20 years. At the same time, we will continue to oppose any politically and ideologically driven gimmick that is used to fund transportation. Cutting the pay or benefits of federal workers, eliminating six-day mail delivery, attacking labor standards and cutting domestic programs that working families depend on have all been proposed and all must be rejected.

It is time to focus on serious policy proposals – playing chicken with the Highway Trust Fund and the hundreds of thousands of jobs its supports makes no sense.

 

 

Oppose Broun Amendment to T-HUD Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4745)

Oppose Broun Amendment to T-HUD Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4745)

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I write to express opposition to the Broun amendment to H.R. 4745, the House FY 15 T-HUD legislation.  This amendment undermines Amtrak’s ability to provide the rail service that passengers and communities have come to rely on.

Rep. Paul Broun’s amendment (R-GA) would arbitrarily cut Amtrak’s operating funding by ten percent or $34 million.  The base bill already makes unacceptable cuts to Amtrak’s capital budget, endangering the efficiency of the system and delaying improvements to infrastructure and rail cars that are urgently needed.  To further slash funding to Amtrak is simply irresponsible, politically motivated and simply serves as an excuse to demonize Amtrak’s hardworking onboard service employees.  This amendment is particularly ill-advised at a time when Amtrak is setting ridership records year after year and recent polling shows that the railroad has broad public support across the country.

As the sole provider of national intercity passenger rail, Amtrak is in need of greater investment, not decreased funding and political assaults.    Please take a stand against these dangerous cuts to Amtrak and oppose the Broun amendment.

Sincerely,

Edward Wytkind

President

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Statement on the Passing of Congressman Jim Oberstar

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues the following statement in reaction to the passing of Congressman Jim Oberstar:

“The news that our dear friend Jim Oberstar has passed away is shocking and leaves us with a heavy heart.

“For transportation workers, Jim Oberstar was the “Conscience of the House” as he spent a distinguished career as a lawmaker giving them a strong voice inside the corridors of power.

“On the transportation issues that confronted our nation, Jim Oberstar, known to many as Mr. Chairman, was a towering figure.  When there was a job to create or save, Jim Oberstar led the charge.  As our transportation system deteriorated, Jim Oberstar led every battle to demand action on federal investment initiatives.  When policy proposals were offered that undermined transportation workers or threatened their jobs or rights, Jim Oberstar led the opposition.  And throughout his career Jim Oberstar always believed that a worker’s clearest path into the middle class was through the power of a strong union and collective bargaining.

“Most of all, in the decades that Jim Oberstar graced the House floor, it was his unyielding view that every working person deserves fairness and dignity on the job that guided him and forever will define his legacy.

“Today we pause to honor Jim Oberstar’s life of public service, to remember his friendship, to mourn his passing and to offer our condolences and prayers to his wife Jean and his entire family, and to his friends.”

CONTACT: Alison Omens, aomens@outreachstrategies.com, 202-507-4843

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Former Chairman Oberstar Weighs in Against NAI’s “Flag of Convenience” Scheme

Norwegian Air International’s (NAI) scheme to launch a Flag of Convenience airline has attracted a hefty opponent. NAI meet Jim Oberstar.

Yes, the former Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee yesterday urged Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to reject NAI’s application for a foreign air operator’s certificate to expand its long-haul transatlantic service.

Mr. Oberstar’s decision to go public against the NAI application shouldn’t surprise anyone. For 36 years as a member of the committee with primary oversight authority over the aviation industry, Mr. Oberstar always called out scams when he saw one. Drawing on his experience and expertise in this area, Mr. Oberstar writes that NAI’s application violates the U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement and threatens the future viability of the U.S. airline industry and its workforce. He also writes that competition in the transatlantic market “must not be set by those (read: NAI) who would seek to gain an unfair advantage at the expense of quality jobs and high labor standards.”

As usual, transportation workers and the nation can always count on Mr. Oberstar to weigh in on the side of good jobs, sound transportation policy and fair competition. He joins a growing list of airlines and unions on both sides of the Atlantic, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, over 100 U.S Senators and Representatives, and others who have stood up against NAI’s nefarious strategy. We hope Secretary Foxx soon comes to the same conclusion and denies NAI’s application.

 

 

Former Chairman Jim Oberstar Weighs in Against NAI’s “Flag of Convenience” Scheme

The Honorable Anthony Foxx
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Mr. Secretary:

I have watched with great interest the public debate over the application of Norwegian Air International (NAI) for a foreign air operator’s certificate from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). As a former chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, it is my strongly held view that the approval of NAI’s application would run contrary to the U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement and the labor article embodied in the agreement, and contrary to the best interests of U. S. commercial aviation. I respectfully urge you to reject NAI’s application.

During my 36 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives on the committee of jurisdiction over international aviation trade issues, I witnessed dramatic changes in the U.S. and global airline industries. Beginning with deregulation in 1978 and continuing through the modern era of mergers, code sharing, anti-trust-immunized alliances, and expansive Open Skies agreements, much of the airline industry today is globally interconnected; U.S. airlines and their employees are directly impacted by the actions of foreign competitors more than ever before. During my tenure of watchfulness over the U.S. aviation industry, I sought to ensure that liberalization was pursued in bi-lateral agreements which assured a balance of benefits with our international trade partners, protecting the integrity, safety, and competitiveness of the U.S. aviation system.

In the early 1990s, the U.S. government began negotiating bilateral Air Transport, or Open Skies agreements that were intended to open aviation markets, promote competition and tourism, create jobs and increase consumer choice for international travel. These Open Skies agreements are qualitatively different from other trade agreements which deal with services in that they are almost exclusively bilateral. As such, they reflect a balance of benefits for the U.S. and our trade partner, often with in-country and beyond operating rights, and they are overseen by the Departments of State, Transportation, and Justice, rather than the United States Trade Representative. Given the complexity and size of the U.S. aviation market – which accounts for over half of the world’s aviation marketplace – retention of this model is necessary to ensure that the exchange in air traffic rights is done in a way that promotes strong safety, labor and working condition standards, while also ensuring an equitable competitive environment for U.S. airlines. Critical to achieving this goal has long been the continued enforcement of U.S. foreign ownership and control and cabotage laws, along with strong US DOT and DOJ regulatory oversight.

The negotiation of the U.S.-EU Open Skies agreement, which began in the middle of the last decade, presented many unique challenges. While the European Union is an economic and political union of 28 member states, each of these states has retained its respective governmental aviation regulatory authority. Therefore, rather than dealing with a single aviation regulatory body and one set of labor and social laws as we had with previous agreements, we were dealing with multiple aviation regulatory authorities and sets of labor and social laws. While there are base standards for safety and labor laws, the individual nation-state laws still differ widely.

Given the unique nature of negotiating with the EU, many of my colleagues and I were concerned about proposed changes in regulatory structure that would allow any EU airline to operate from any point in the EU to any point in the U.S. and to establish subsidiaries in other EU states. Despite this “European status” for operating and corporate rights, there was no EU-wide law that governed key labor-management relations aspects of these airlines. Instead, these aspects – such as selection of bargaining representatives and contract negotiations – were, and continue to be, subject to the national labor laws of the respective European countries.

During the negotiations, EU representatives expressed concern that such an arrangement could lead to “forum shopping” where European airlines would seek to operate out of countries with less robust labor and social laws. This could allow airlines to seek the lowest common denominator in terms of labor and regulatory standards thereby lowering their own operating costs but driving down standards throughout the EU. In other words, the EU was concerned that new airlines could be launched using a NAI-like business model.

This concern led negotiators to include in the agreement Article 17 bis (“Social Dimension”), which states that “the opportunities created by the Agreement are not intended to undermine labour standards or the labour-related rights and principles contained in the Parties’ respective laws.” It further states that “the principles in paragraph 1 shall guide the Parties as they implement the Agreement.” The fact that there was no equivalent to Article 17 bis in any of the previous Open Skies agreements with EU member states is a direct acknowledgement of the challenges posed by the regulatory and legal arrangement within the EU.

Article 17 bis was a critical factor in the “Agreement”. I applauded its inclusion as an important and necessary step in protecting against the use of market-opening aviation trade agreements to lower labor standards throughout the transatlantic aviation market: the largest aviation trade market in the world.

Today, in light of NAI’s application for a foreign air operator’s certificate, as well as the plethora of public comments that the DOT has received on this application, I believe that the inclusion of Article 17 bis and the concerns that led to its inclusion were particularly prescient.

Mr. Secretary, you and the DOT International policy staff are familiar with the details of NAI’s application and business model, but key facts are worth repeating: NAI is a subsidiary of Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS), a low-cost European carrier based out of Norway. When Norway became a signatory of the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement in 2011, NAS was afforded the same access to air traffic rights under that agreement as other EU carriers. Rather than expand its operations with its existing corporate structure, its workforce and collective bargaining agreements, NAS created NAI and proceeded to register its long-haul aircraft in Ireland and obtain an Irish Air Operator’s Certificate – effectively becoming an Irish airline despite the fact that it has no announced plans to operate in Ireland.

This move allowed NAS to expand its long-haul operations through NAI, but also to escape Norway’s social laws and to evade existing collective bargaining agreements with its Norwegian pilots and flight attendants. For example, NAI’s pilots are based in Thailand and employed under individual employment contracts that are covered by the laws of Singapore. These pilots are then contracted to NAI. The individual employment contracts prevent collective bargaining, and allow NAI to drastically reduce labor costs and gain an unfair competitive advantage over U.S. and European carriers who currently operate in the transatlantic market. The workforce arrangement for flight attendants is still evolving, but what I have learned is that NAI is hiring and basing its cabin crewmembers outside of its home country in what is clearly a plan to secure substandard wages and working conditions and to blatantly evade its collective bargaining obligations in Norway. NAI is pursuing, quite simply, what in maritime law is called a “Flag of Convenience” strategy.

NAI has not denied that it registered in Ireland to avoid the application of Norwegian labor laws to its crews. Other economic justifications presented for selecting Ireland over other possible places to incorporate, the validity of which also have been effectively rebutted by several opponents, appear to be intended to distract from this central and undisputed motivation. The company is thus taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement in order to lower its own labor costs and undercut the competition, the very scenario that EU negotiators feared when Article 17 bis was included in the U.S.-EU agreement.

I believe that the evidence and arguments submitted in the public docket provide the Department with ample justification to deny the application.

During my years of service on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, conducting vigorous oversight of international aviation trade, I learned that liberalization and market expansion could provide numerous benefits to consumers, open business opportunities for U.S. carriers and create jobs. But I also observed that effective market expansion required the thoughtful and careful approach of balancing reduced trade barriers with the assurance of fair competition and the public interest. We understand the strategic and economic significance of the U.S. airline industry to our nation’s well-being, and further understand the unique challenges inherent in implementing the expansive and complicated U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement in a productive and responsible manner.

With this background, I believe that this is an important inflection point for how we as a nation project and secure America’s role in the global aviation marketplace. The negotiators for both sides in the the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement negotiations understood the risks and adverse consequences that irresponsible liberalization could pose to the airline industries and workforces on both sides of the Atlantic. They resisted deliberate efforts to dismantle the U.S. ownership and control and cabotage laws, and they included, for the first time ever, a labor article in the final agreement. In doing so, they made an unmistakable statement that the terms of competition must not be set by those who would seek to gain an unfair advantage at the expense of quality jobs and high labor standards.

The Department should implement the Agreement in the spirit of Article 17 bis and concern for both fair competition and balanced trade benefits. Were NAI to be allowed to operate as proposed, the dynamic of transatlantic aviation competition will be changed for the worse, creating a situation where Flags of Convenience become the norm, not the exception.

I urge you to reject the NAI application, and thereby uphold the spirit and intent of the U.S.-EU Open Skies Agreement and Article 17 bis. Thank you for your consideration of my views on this vital international aviation policy issue.

Sincerely,

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Federal Rail Regulators Say 15,000 Ton Trains Should be Operated by 2-Person Crews

WASHINGTON, DC – Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), today commends the Federal Railroad Administration on its intention to issue a new rule on two-person train crew requirements.

“We know, through years of experience and too many tragic accidents that it takes two qualified crew members to safely operate trains – some up to 15,000 tons and a mile long.

“Communities deserve a basic assurance that the trains operating in their neighborhoods are safe and today’s action moves us a step closer to meeting that expectation.

“We are disappointed that our nation’s railroads have predictably dismissed the need for today’s action by federal regulators. While the railroads argue against this rule as unnecessary, they conveniently fail to mention that their previous collective bargaining pursuits have included attempts to employ one-person crews.

“This is a common sense safety initiative by the FRA – we look forward to its timely completion and implementation.”

CONTACT: Alison Omens, aomens@outreachstrategies.com, 202-507-4843

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TTD Urges U.S. DOT to Ban Voice Calls on Planes

WASHINGTON, DC—The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) today responded to a request for comments from the Department of Transportation (DOT), and urged DOT to ban voice calls on all flights within, to or from the U.S. TTD argued that allowing passengers to make in-flight phone calls would be inherently disruptive to the cabin environment and create needless safety issues that would be nearly impossible to resolve.

“The noise and distraction of passengers talking on their phones would interfere with the ability of flight attendants and pilots to deliver important safety announcements to passengers, particularly during times of emergency,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind.

As the only flight crew members physically present in the aircraft cabin, flight attendants would be responsible for policing passenger phone calls and mediating disagreements among passengers when they predictably arise. This would create yet another distraction from their regular job responsibilities, including those critical to the safety and security of the passengers and crew.

“Allowing in-flight phone calls would not only effectively turn flight attendants into professional mediators, but it would create an unnecessarily chaotic environment in the cabin,” said Wytkind. “Safety announcements, special instructions, and other vital pieces of information, especially during in-flight incidents or emergencies, would be lost in the din of chatting passengers. There is no upside that would justify this risk.”

In addition, the flying public opposes cell phone use during flights. Surveys continue to show that the vast majority of fliers disapprove of in-flight calls.

CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395.2195

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TTD Urges DOT to Ban In-Flight Voice Calls

Ms. Laura E. Jennings
Senior Trial Attorney
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Ave SE
Washington, DC 20590

RE: Use of Mobile Wireless Devices for Voice Calls on Aircraft
Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
Docket No. DOT-OST-2014-0002
RIN 2105-AE30
Office of the Secretary, DOT

Dear Ms. Jennings:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) I write in response to the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) seeking information on the effects and implications of prohibiting passengers from using mobile devices to make voice calls while onboard a flight traveling within, to or from the United States. By way of background, TTD consists of 32 affiliated unions that represent workers in all modes of transportation, including several with aviation members who would be directly impacted by this proceeding.

Drawing on its aviation consumer protection authority, the DOT seeks comment on whether allowing in-flight phone calls would be an “unfair practice to consumers, pursuant to 49 USC 41712, or would be so disruptive as to be inconsistent with adequate air transportation, pursuant to 49 USC 41702.” We believe that DOT has ample statutory authority to ban voice calls on commercial aircraft and, for the reasons cited in these comments, the policy justification to do so as well. We therefore urge DOT to promulgate a rule that bans in-flight voice calls and ask the agency to thoroughly consider the concerns expressed in these comments as it develops this rulemaking.

As indicated above, TTD unions represent flight attendants, pilots and other front-line aviation workers who depend on a safe and efficient air transportation system. We bring their perspective, particularly flight attendants and pilots that work onboard an aircraft, to the debate over cell phone use. Based on this perspective, we believe that allowing passengers to talk on their phones while in-flight would be inherently disruptive to the cabin environment and would create needless safety issues that would be difficult if not impossible to resolve.

Undoubtedly phone call use would increase cabin noise levels, making it difficult for both flight attendants and pilots to communicate safety announcements to passengers. In emergency situations specifically, passengers distracted by phone conversations, both of their own and those of their fellow passengers, may miss important directions and instructions. An aircraft cabin already includes several potential distractions and other challenges to ensure effective crew-to-passenger communication. It makes little sense to create yet another barrier that flight attendants must overcome to meet their safety responsibilities.

The ANPRM cites that before expanding passenger use of personal electronic devices (PEDs), air carriers would need to revise their policies and “institute mitigation strategies for passenger disruptions to crewmember safety briefings and announcements and potential passenger conflicts.” We agree with this need, but there is no analysis measuring the success of the strategies intended to overcome these problems.

As the lone crewmembers physically present in the aircraft cabin, flight attendants would become responsible for policing passenger calls and responding to disagreements that will inherently arise. Mediating disputes between passengers when the volume or content of a call becomes offensive will create yet another distraction that must be navigated by flight attendants while performing their regular duties.

Moreover, current polls and surveys of public opinion indicate a majority of fliers oppose the possibility of allowing in-flight phone calls. As reported by the Portable Electronic Devices Aviation Rulemaking Committee, 61% of passengers oppose in-flight cell phone calls “mainly due to the potential distractions it could cause for other passengers.” Similarly, a national poll released by the Quinnipiac University in December 2013 found that 59 percent of Americans oppose the use of cell phones on planes. And, even some airlines have announced they will continue prohibiting their passengers from talking on their phones due to customer preference, including Delta Air Lines which stated that 64% of its customers feel making phone calls would have a “negative impact on the onboard experience.” These results indicate that the majority of passengers on a given flight would be unhappy if others are talking on their phones. As DOT notes in its ANPRM, an unfair or deceptive practice under 49 USC 41712 can be an act that is harmful to passengers but could not be reasonably avoided. Clearly, cell phone use onboard an aircraft would fall into that category. Not only would passengers be unable to avoid the distractions or annoyances that wide-spread voice communication would present, but their only outlet to vent their frustrations would be to flight attendants onboard the flight.

The DOT seeks comments on potential mitigation measures, such as whether a physical structure could be built to create quiet and talking zones. Regardless of whether this is even feasible, it fails to solve the issue: those talking on their phones would still miss safety information and flight attendants would still be distracted from their regular duties, being forced to make sure that those on calls are inside the designated area. Additionally, if an emergency occurred, a physical barrier could add another impediment to evacuation, disseminating information or tending to passenger needs.

Based on these concerns alone, we believe that DOT has the authority and obligation to bar cell phone calls onboard flights traveling within, to or from the United States as inconsistent with adequate air transportation pursuant to Section 41702 and as counter to the protection of consumers specified in Section 41712. We note that Section 41702, in addition to requiring “adequate” transportation, also requires DOT to ensure air carriers provide “safe” transportation. As noted above, introducing voice calls in the aircraft cabin would make it more difficult for crew members to fulfill their varied safety responsibilities. While we understand that the ANPRM is not seeking comment on the safety aspects of voice communications that falls under the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration, the issues raised in these comments are also safety issues that must be considered by DOT under its authority in Section 41702.

The use of cell phones while in-flight also may pose unintended security risks. Terrorists aboard a single or multiple aircrafts could use the new capability to communicate with each other in real time about the movement or vulnerability of crewmembers or to more easily launch a coordinated attack. While outside of its jurisdiction, DOT should work with the Department of Homeland Security to analyze any and all security issues the practice would create.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments, and we hope the DOT will take ours into serious consideration.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

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Time for a National Summit to Shine a Spotlight on Bus Driver Attacks

Last month in Olympia, Wash., passengers on a city bus witnessed their driver being brutally beaten in an attack that was caught on video for the world to see. The footage is alarming and sickening. It was not, unfortunately, uncommon.

From sexual and physical assaults to verbal abuse, the nation’s bus drivers are facing an epidemic of hostility. In the New York area alone there are seven attacks per month on average that range from spitting to beatings to stabbings, according to the Metropolitan Transit Authority. Other cities see the same level of hostility against drivers, meaning it is time to address this problem at the national level.

Last fall, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, called on the Department of Transportation and Federal Transit Administration to hold a summit on bus driver assaults. Today, with the blood-soaked face of the Olympia bus driver fresh in our minds, we renew that call.

We must evaluate new measures, and new technologies, being used successfully in parts of our country and abroad to protect drivers and their passengers, who often get dragged into the fray. The installation of Plexiglas partitions to separate drivers from passengers or other changes to a driver’s seating area, are options to consider. Another is the presence of uniformed police officers on buses, and tougher penalties for those who do attack drivers. Other steps include video surveillance and better training for drivers. In New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has started offering rewards of up to $2,000 for information that leads to the arrest and indictment of those assaulting drivers.

The solutions to curb violence against bus drivers are out there—we have simply lacked the will to implement them. This must change, and we can start by holding a national summit with transit unions, public transportation leaders, local law enforcement and the appropriate federal government agencies.

Let’s not wait until statistics on physical attacks become numbers of fatalities. The men and women who help keep America moving deserve better. They deserve the safest working environment this country can offer.

 

 

 

Time to Give Transportation Security Officers the Job Security They Deserve

Sometimes the smart thing to do and the right thing to do are one and the same.  That’s the case with providing full rights to America’s 45,000 Transportation Security Officers (TSOs).

The TSOs, employed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), keep travelers and personnel safe at airports across the country.  But unlike virtually all federal workers, they are denied basic job protections, including the right to adequately appeal firings and suspensions.

This double standard is not only fundamentally unfair, it makes no sense.  Isn’t it in the public interest to ensure that the people charged with securing our airports are treated well and able to do their jobs without the fear of arbitrary or unwarranted punishment?

As it stands, worker satisfaction and morale at TSA are chronically low, and no wonder.  Knowing that you could be fired or suspended unfairly—and may not have the right to challenge such action—is not a recipe for a happy workforce.  It is particularly disheartening when nearly all other federal employees are granted this fundamental right by U.S. law, including many in TSA’s management who oversee transportation operations.  Why should there be a double standard for those who are on the ground each day protecting American passengers?

There’s a simple fix that could solve this problem, and it’s time for either the President or Congress to get it done.  We need rules or legislation that require TSA to follow the same laws, regulation and guidance regarding its workforce as other federal agencies, including intelligence agencies and others within the Department of Homeland Security.  The greater employee morale and efficiency at those agencies prove what we know to be true—that worker rights and protections need not be sacrificed in the name of safety.

Equal treatment for TSOs is both the smart thing, and the right thing to do.

 

FAA Launches New Rule to Curb Unsafe Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing Practices

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement regarding the FAA’s Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) on drug and alcohol testing at aircraft maintenance facilities outside the U.S.:

“Federal aviation regulators took an important step yesterday in an effort to ensure that foreign aircraft repair stations that work on U.S. aircraft can no longer evade drug and alcohol testing requirements.

“The FAA’s announcement that it will consider extending drug and alcohol testing to maintenance providers located outside the U.S. is in direct response to a congressional mandate passed in 2012 and one that was supported by transportation labor as a long overdue safety reform. While we are disappointed that the FAA is now over a year late in issuing a formal repair station proposal as required by Congress, we hope the ANPRM process will move forward quickly and that this safety loophole will be closed as intended by lawmakers.

“Today’s action also brings us closer to federal rules that level the playing field for U.S. airline mechanics. This generation of skilled mechanics has lived through an epidemic of outsourcing inspired by a government sanctioned feeding frenzy that today has almost 70 percent of aircraft maintenance outsourced, with one-third of it sent overseas.

“We are especially pleased that FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has acted in light of a weak rulemaking issued in January by the Transportation Security Administration on foreign repair station security. Inexplicably, the final TSA rule buckled under pressure from special interests and even rolled back limited security requirements embodied in the TSA’s initial proposal.

“The flying public and airline crews deserve nothing but the most rigorous safety, security and inspection standards of repair work on U.S. aircraft that is performed overseas. We urge the FAA to expedite the drug and alcohol testing rule and reject the predictable tactics by those who will try to weaken or bury this most basic safety requirement.”

CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jmichels@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395.2195

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TTD Urges Administration to Deliver Strong Message to EC: Keep Aviation and Maritime Out of TTIP

WASHINGTON, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues the following statement in response to news accounts of leaked European Commission (EC) proposals to include aviation and maritime services in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade deal currently under negotiation:

“Recent press reports of ‘leaked’ documents confirm what we’ve known for some time: the European Commission (EC) continues to advance a trade agenda that would undermine U.S. airline and maritime jobs and our national and economic security. The Europeans have been pushing a reform agenda through attempts—in defiance of longstanding U.S. trade policy—to include aviation and maritime in U.S.-EU talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. Specifically, the EC seeks to weaken or eliminate our laws limiting foreign ownership and control of U.S. air carriers and to hollow out Jones Act protections at the expense of U.S. Merchant Marine jobs.

“Air and maritime services have historically been excluded from broad free trade agreements and for good reason: both sectors serve strategic economic and national security purposes for the nation. While America’s long-term economic interests are intrinsically linked to a robust U.S. aviation and maritime sector, the EC would have us hand over the keys to these vital industries. The Obama Administration must reject these efforts.

“Fortunately, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman last July removed maritime from TTIP talks by declaring that ‘The Administration has continuously ensured that application of the Jones Act is permitted under each of our trade agreements’ and that it ‘will continue to take this position.’ We urge the Administration to reaffirm those views and to declare that aviation will not be a subject of TTIP negotiations. Instead, aviation trade negotiations should continue to be handled through bilateral negotiations under the auspices of the Department of State and Department of Transportation.

“These leaked documents demonstrate the EC’s resolve to pursue reforms in U.S. transportation policy that have been roundly rejected by the President and by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. In fact, 158 members of the House have already written Ambassador Froman in opposition to including aviation in TTIP talks.

“Aviation and maritime have no place at the TTIP negotiating table. We urge the Obama Administration to deliver this message unambiguously to its European counterparts.”

CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395.2195

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Misguided Reform Effort in Senate Will Harm U.S. Postal Service

When it comes to the postal “reform” bill now before the U.S. Senate, you have to wonder what has happened to common sense.  If Congress damages the U.S. Postal Service and imperils its future, is that reform?

We say no, and we echo the TTD Executive Committee’s call for the Senate to reject S. 1486, a bill that would slash middle-class jobs and impose unfair reforms to postal employee benefits.  As a broad coalition of transportation unions, we understand the important role that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) plays in the movement of mail and goods throughout the country and as a major transportation provider.

Tens of thousands of postal workers, including members of our affiliate, the National Association of Letter Carriers, face losing their jobs over the misguided effort of S. 1486, while the focus should be on real solutions to ensure the financial solvency of the USPS.

Instead, S. 1486 would pave the way for the elimination of Saturday service and of door-to-door service—hurting residents and small businesses, creating a disadvantage for the USPS as it competes for business, and furthering the decline of the middle class by pushing dedicated employees out of their jobs.

Here are some of the bill’s worst features:

  • It requires USPS to cut Saturday delivery—and eliminate 80,000 jobs—if total mail volume falls below an arbitrary threshold of 140 billion pieces.
  • It creates a two-tiered workforce by changing the eligibility requirements for retirement and savings plans for new employees.
  • It imposes discriminatory reforms to the workers’ compensation program that would affect all federal workers, not just those with USPS.  The bill also mandates that USPS pre-fund workers’ comp benefits—a burden that no other federal agency bears, and which will do nothing to ensure financial solvency.

Even as the USPS has begun to post profits and turn itself around, S. 1486 would short-circuit the comeback and create new problems.  We urge the Senate to reject S. 1486 and consider the reform plan offered by USPS unions to pay down debt with pension surpluses, provide greater pricing freedom and free the Postal Service to innovate and offer new services.

Before the United States of America was formed as a republic, the Postal Service helped to knit together its fabric.  Congress should think hard before it slashes USPS services in the name of “reform.”

 

President Obama Kick-Starts Debate on Funding Long-Term Surface Transportation Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement on President Obama’s four-year surface transportation investment proposal:

We’re pleased that the President has declared it a priority of his Administration to fix the surface transportation funding crisis that is threatening our economy and American competitiveness. Today’s announcement for a $302 billion investment adds a sense of urgency to the debate as Congress and the President deal with the imminent insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund. 

“I joined a wide swath of the transportation community this morning as a participant in a roundtable on the surface transportation reauthorization legislation hosted by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. We echoed the view that the funding crisis must be fixed with a long-term legislative solution. Without new revenues, such as an increase in the federal fuel tax or through alternative tax proposals, our transit systems, highways and bridges will continue to decay and we will harm commuters and businesses, and idle millions of good jobs. We will now direct our energy toward enactment of a bipartisan, long-term bill that creates middle-class jobs and protects the rights of workers.”

CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395.2195

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Gulfstream Application Sets Dangerous Precedent for Aircraft Maintenance Outsourcing

Alphonso Pendergrass
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591

RE: Petition for Exemption; Summary of Petition Received
Summary Notice No. PE-2014-07
Docket No. 2014-02249
Docket ID FAA-2014-0028
Dear Mr. Pendergrass:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I write to oppose the petition for exemption filed by Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation, Inc. (Gulfstream) in the above captioned docket. By way of background, TTD consists of 32 affiliated unions, including those that represent FAA inspectors and aviation mechanics who have a vested interest in this proceeding.

TTD and our affiliates have long argued that the growing trend of outsourcing maintenance necessitates improved oversight and strong safety standards for repair stations. Gulfstream’s petition moves in the opposite direction by requesting permanent exemption from requirements that ensure safety. We oppose this request for the reasons elaborated below.

If granted, Gulfstream would be exempt from 14 CFR 145.107(a)(1) which would allow the company to create a repair station organization in which the parent facility exercising managerial control would not be required to have the same ratings as those held by its satellite repair stations. As a result, the parent facility would be responsible for the quality and integrity of maintenance work for which it cannot assure is completed properly.

As TTD stated in previous comments on this issue , it would be a mistake to lift the requirement of 145.107(a)(1) as doing so would enable satellite repair stations to perform maintenance work without proper safety controls, thereby potentially jeopardizing the safety of the aircraft repaired at these facilities. While Gulfstream states that it does not have a history of sharing supervisors and inspectors among its repair stations, it fails to take into account a possible scenario in which a satellite repair station is in need of such personnel with a specific certification when none are available. It is unclear how the company would resolve such situations.

The exemption that Gulfstream seeks would be permanent, meaning the company would be free to expand its roster of satellite repair stations without having to take into account its ability to oversee the work performed there. The company clearly states in its application that it expects to add repair stations to its organization and that “the permanent granting of this exemption would relieve future complications with the addition of domestic capability.” The safety of U.S. aircraft should not be subjected to a company’s preference for efficiency. Granting such an unrestricted exemption presents the opportunity for maintenance to move between satellite stations while escaping an adequate level of oversight.

We note that, other than making it easier to expand its enterprise, Gulfstream fails to explain why this exemption is needed. The company does state that the FAA’s failure to approve the request would cost the agency and company time and money due to changes associated with revising the Operation Specification for six of its 11 repair stations. However, this claim is false. Gulfstream provides no explanation as to why it would need to change these Operation Specifications. Based on the information available, the disapproval of this request would maintain status quo, meaning no changes to the repair stations’ Operation Specifications would be needed, and thus disapproval of the petition would have no effect on FAA or company resources. In fact, the opposite of the company’s claim is true: approving the petition would create additional demand on FAA inspectors in order to review, assess and approve changes to the facilities’ Repair Station/Quality Control Manual System, Training Program and Operation Specifications.

Further, FAA approval of Gulfstream’s application, the first request of its kind, would set a precedent for other contract maintenance providers to seek similar exemptions. This would create an environment where contracting companies could develop maintenance networks with little overarching oversight. This would be a precarious arrangement and detrimental to safety.

This exemption would benefit only Gulfstream while at the same time reducing safety at satellite stations. In the interest of public safety, TTD opposes this petition and urges the agency to reject it.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

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AFL-CIO, TTD Oppose NAI Flag of Convenience Application

BEFORE THE
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION
WASHINGTON, DC

Docket No. OST-2013-0204

Application of NORWEGIAN AIR INTERNATIONAL LIMITED
for an exemption under 49 U.S.C. § 40109 and a foreign air carrier permit
pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 41301 (US-EU Open Skies)

ANSWER OF THE AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR
AND CONGRESS OF INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATIONS,
AND THE TRANSPORTATION TRADES DEPARTMENT,
AFL-CIO TO DOT NOTICE OF MOTION

On behalf of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), and the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, we write in response to the written summary of the January 8, 2014 U.S.-EU Joint Committee meeting as it pertained to the current and planned long haul operations of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA (NAS) and its affiliated companies, Norwegian Long Haul AS (NLH) and Norwegian Air International Limited (NAI).

The AFL-CIO and TTD support the comments filed by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), and we refer you to the analysis and response to each point made by the European delegation detailed in ALPA’s filing. As those comments discuss, the DOT Summary states that during a closed-door session of the Joint Committee Meeting, the European delegation gave the Joint Committee what the Summary characterized as “some detailed factual information.” We do not believe that this characterization accurately reflects the nature of the information provided by the European delegation, as the information is in most cases not detailed or not factual, or both. Much of the justification being provided for NAS/NLH/NAI business model, including their decision to seek an Air Operators Certificate in Ireland rather than Norway, has only been recently presented. Furthermore, as detailed in the ALPA filing, the economic claims for basing long haul operations out of Ireland seem to be insubstantial. Rather, we believe that these claims are merely part of a publicity campaign designed to distract the general public and federal regulators from their true goal and purpose: to avoid Norway’s labor and other social laws, evade their existing collective bargaining agreements, and to undercut existing U.S. and European airlines and their workers.

Perhaps the most troubling thing about the written summary is what the EU delegation did not mention. The EU-U.S. Air Transport Agreement (ATA) includes, for the first time ever, a labor article designed to prevent an agreement from having adverse effects on aviation workers. This provision, Article 17 bis (“Social Dimension”), states that “the opportunities created by the Agreement are not intended to undermine labour standards or the labour-related rights and principles contained in the Parties’ respective laws.” It further states that “the principles in paragraph 1 shall guide the Parties as they implement the Agreement.”

The inclusion of Article 17 bis in the ATA represented important progress in our global effort to ensure that market-opening trade initiatives are not used to harm good jobs and undermine labor standards, and was praised by both U.S. and European negotiators. On March 25, 2010 Siim Kallas, the European Commission Vice President Responsible for Transport released a statement proclaiming that “For the first time in aviation history, the agreement includes a dedicated article on the social dimension of EU-US aviation relations. This will not only ensure that the existing legal rights of airline employees are preserved, but that the implementation of the agreement contributes to high labour standards.”

Despite such a strong statement supporting high labors standards and worker protections, the European delegation appears to be walking away from commitments they agreed to in Article 17 bis. At no point in the written summary of the European delegation’s presentation was Article 17 bis mentioned or referenced. Nor does it appear that the European delegation has factored this article into its determination that the U.S. DOT should grant NAI a foreign air carrier permit.

As TTD detailed in its previous filing, NAI’s intentions leave little in doubt. Its business model was developed explicitly to evade its collective bargaining obligations in its home country and Norwegian labor laws, and it is doing so using opportunities provided by the ATA. By basing its crews in Thailand and employing them on individual contracts governed by the laws of Singapore, NAI is clearly undermining labor standards on both sides of the Atlantic.

The negotiators of the ATA recognized that the fact that each European signatory to the ATA has its own national labor law might entice airlines to “shop around for a better deal.” Article 17 bis was included precisely to prevent this practice. Yet now, when NAI is attempting to do precisely that, the European delegation appears to be abandoning the principles that guided their negotiations, and walking away from their commitments under the agreement.

Should NAI’s business plans be allowed to move forward, we believe that it will set a devastating precedent that will have far reaching implications for the global aviation industry, U.S. and European airlines and airline employees. NAI’s application is a critical test case for how the U.S.-EU air services agreement will be implemented, and whether the Article 17 bis labor protections will be enforced as intended.

We believe that the case presented by the European delegation as detailed in the written summary is fundamentally flawed and ignores a crucial article in the ATA. It also ignored many serious questions that TTD and other organizations have posed in regards to the NAI business model. DOT should make clear that it will not ignore the ATA labor article, and seek further information from the European delegation and NAI about how they will address the serious labor concerns that we have presented.

We appreciate your consideration of our views.

Richard Trumka  President, AFL-CIO
Edward Wytkind, President, TTD

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TSA Aircraft Repair Station Rule Inadequate

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement in response to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) final rule on Aircraft Repair Station Security [Docket No. TSA-2004-17131]:

“We are extremely disappointed with TSA’s final rule on aircraft repair station security released earlier today. The final rule further rolls back already weak security requirements TSA proposed in 2009, fails to address security loopholes in the proposed rule identified by TTD, and runs counter to the congressional requirement that TSA ensure the security of maintenance work performed at contract repair stations.

“We understand that foreign governments and industry trade groups were pushing TSA to water down this security rule, and to issue regulations that would allow the current moratorium on certified stations to be lifted. But we expected more from an agency that is supposed to be focused on transportation security.

“The final rule eliminates the proposal that repair stations certified by the FAA that work on U.S. aircraft adopt and implement a security program to help control access to a facility. Instead, limited and weak security measures will apply only to stations that are on or adjacent to an airport. The security challenges raised by the heavy use of contract maintenance are not limited to stations at airports and Congress clearly did not identify this distinction when it mandated security enhancements.

“The final rule did nothing to address concern with adequate background checks of contract station employees. In fact, it went in the opposite direction by only applying these reviews to individuals at a repair station designated as a TSA point of contact and those who have the means to prevent the unauthorized operation of large aircraft.

“Finally, TSA does not intend to fully inspect FAA certified repair stations, weakening the agency’s ability to ensure their security. This rule also fails to give TSA the clear authority to conduct unannounced inspections of foreign repair stations. While the rule extols the virtues of unannounced inspections at domestic stations, it notes that for foreign stations ‘it will always coordinate any inspection with the host government prior to starting an inspection.’”
CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395.2195

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Altoona Mirror—Don’t Derail Amtrak: Poll Says Pennsylvanians Want it Funded

[As published by Edward Wytkind and John Previsich in the Nov. 24 Altoona Mirror]

In the first half of the 20th century, the Pennsylvania Railroad was the most heavily traveled railroad in the United States, and at one point it was the largest publicly traded corporation in the world.

Times have changed, but Pennsylvanians, including those in Altoona, still have a deep appreciation for the importance of passenger rail.

Indeed, a recent poll shows more than seven in 10 residents of Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District want to increase or maintain current levels of Amtrak funding.

These results are consistent with new opinion research across the country reflecting that Americans of all political stripes want more Amtrak service.

And they want it in more places than just the heavily traveled Northeast Corridor of Washington-New York-Boston. Amtrak ridership is at an all-time high, reaching 31.6 million passengers last year, thanks to increased use of routes throughout the country.

This includes six million riders on Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian, a five percent increase over 2011.

Elected leaders who hold Amtrak’s fate in their hands need to understand that conservatives and liberals alike say they want more train service. In Pennsylvania’s 9th Congressional District, where the vast majority of residents have not used Amtrak during the past two years, 75 percent of those polled have a favorable opinion of Amtrak.

These findings mirror the results of recent polls in states with relatively small ridership numbers, including Iowa, Indiana, Colorado, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Kentucky. Even a quick look at these state surveys shows that support for Amtrak transcends blue state/red state divisions, offering a striking example of non-partisan pragmatism that elected leaders should embrace. Americans correctly understand that a well-financed, well-maintained passenger rail network is essential to an integrated national transportation system.

Passenger rail is also a major priority for those who care about the economy, which is why business leaders have joined the push to expand Amtrak. They know that long-term economic growth cannot happen without investing in our transportation infrastructure and that expanded passenger rail must be part of the picture.

Investment in Amtrak can serve another critical purpose and that is: greater safety for passengers. Rail safety has taken on more urgency in the wake of a deadly passenger train accident in Spain, and more recently, the crash of a freight train that killed 47 in Quebec. One of the most effective ways to increase safety is to require a minimum crew of two for all freight trains-a requirement that more than 80 percent of poll participants, which includes Altoona residents, support.

Pennsylvanians are right to believe that the world’s greatest economy cannot afford to have a second-rate passenger rail system. Amtrak is operating with infrastructure that was built in the middle of the last century and, in some cases, the late 19th century.

Yet Amtrak continues to break its own ridership records.

We need a vast, efficient Amtrak system across our nation, especially one that can accommodate the higher-speed rail that leisure and business passengers are demanding. And we need to fund it in a way that ensures good customer service, properly maintained cars and affordable fares.

This will only happen if those in Washington put aside ideology and listen to what a majority of Pennsylvanians, Americans, are saying: don’t derail Amtrak, fund it.

John Previsich is president of SMART-Transportation Division and Edward Wytkind is president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.

Huffington Post—Rebuild America or Let it Wither

[As posted by Ed Wytkind in The Huffington Post]

These are sobering times if you believe that returning to the days when America actually built things and modernized its economy is critical to our future. From sequestration to the recent government shutdown and inaction on a real job investment platform, 2013 has been the year of backward thinking, as extreme elements within one party have imposed their Dark Ages ideology on the nation.

Fortunately there is another vision for the U.S., one grounded in reality and sound economic practices. It is a vision not unlike the one that guided America during the decades when investment in the lifeblood of our economy — public transit, aviation, rail, roads, bridges, ports and waterways — made us the envy of the world.

This vision was alive and well at a recent gathering of labor leaders in Washington, where the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) held an Executive Committee meeting focused on a new way forward. There was no Tea Party talk about bleeding the government dry or pushing the economy to the brink of collapse. Instead the focus was on the very real business of rebuilding the country’s transportation system, putting the American economy back on track and countering those who believe sequestration and threatened shutdowns are the “new normal.”

Years of neglect have brought us to the breaking point when it comes to our transportation systems. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) said it succinctly: “Because we have not done our jobs when it comes to investing in the future, the U.S. no longer ranks among the World Economic Forum’s top 10 countries in terms of infrastructure quality and investment.” That’s it in a nutshell — we stop investing for a generation and we slip to the middle of the pack when it comes to readying our economy for what lies ahead.

This is not an issue that should be partisan or even open to reasonable debate. That’s why, for example, more than 70 percent of manufacturers — whose livelihood relies on efficiently receiving what they need to produce and ship their goods to market — believe our nation’s infrastructure is failing us. It is why in a town where the labor movement and the business lobby disagree on many things, we are on the same page with the Chamber of Commerce on the need to invest and end this austerity nonsense.

But facts apparently are of no significance to extreme elements in our political system and think tank community that have done everything in their power to stop the U.S. from investing in its future. The madness that began with sequestration and its devastating cuts has continued, culminating in a government shutdown that cost the U.S. economy an estimated $24 billion. For America’s mobility, this reckless strategy slowed air safety projects, shutdown all transportation improvement grants, idled transportation construction jobs, and even threatened the U.S. Merchant Marine, which does very little other than ensure America’s preparedness for military and humanitarian missions.

The U.S. cannot afford much more of this amateur-hour policymaking. The costs to our economy are too great. It is time for a bipartisan agreement to make the necessary long-term investments in transportation systems and infrastructure.

A good model for such an agreement is last week’s passage in the House of the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA). The House voted 417-3 to approve the first water resources jobs bill since 2007, which will strengthen America’s competitiveness through improvements to our ports, harbors and waterways. The Senate passed a similar bill in May by an 83-14 vote. With several large transportation investment bills pending in Congress and sequestration and another shutdown staring us in the face, we will learn quickly whether WRRDA was a trend or a short-lived flirtation with common sense.

It is time to face down the extremists that are exerting too much control over the future of our economy and its transportation network. While there’s a small minority that thinks this reckless agenda is good for America, the rest of us reject it. For our part, transportation unions are committed to making sure America starts building things again and stops letting a few out of step lawmakers control the fate of our economy and the tools it relies on such as safe and modern passenger and freight transportation.

Follow Edward Wytkind on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@EdWytkind

Hitting the Ground Running; Preparing for a Transportation Jobs-Heavy Agenda

TTD’s Executive Committee came together Tuesday to rally around an aggressive transportation jobs and investment agenda and to take dead aim at globalization and safety issues.

We focused like a laser on the need to counter the toxic agenda of political extremists—who gave us brilliant ideas like sequestration and the government shutdown—as a threat to our nation and irresponsible scapegoating of federal workers.

The plan we rolled out, embodied in 10 policy actions by our Executive Committee, comprehensively addresses issues across all modes of transportation—in aviation, passenger and freight rail, public transit, highways, and port and maritime industries.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx appeared before us for the first time. Among the issues we discussed, from finding a long-term fix to the broken surface transportation and aviation funding mechanisms, to dealing with the continuing threat to the Maritime Security Program and port investment initiatives, to the need to give Amtrak the resources it needs, to several international aviation challenges, the conversation unearthed many common views and interests.

Foxx told us Tuesday:

“I am thrilled to sit down with so many transportation labor leaders today, during my first meeting with the Transportation Trades Department Executive Committee as Secretary of Transportation. You know firsthand the difference that good transportation projects can make, and I look forward to continuing to work with you to support efforts like our Buy America program, which has helped ensure that American projects are made by American workers using American materials. Together, we can provide the country with transportation systems that increase safety, strengthen the economy, improve mobility and increase everyone’s quality of life.”

We hosted two other special guests – Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV).

Rep. LoBiondo, chair of the House aviation subcommittee, believes America can’t stand still and stop investing in our transportation system. His philosophy has been a breath of fresh air throughout his 18 years in office as he has voted with working people and for middle-class principles—whether his party leaders agreed with him or not.

And finally, I cannot say enough about Rep. Rahall, the ranking Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who has been a champion over the years for the working men and women in transportation. As usual, we had a free flowing discussion about rebuilding and expanding America’s transportation system and promoting policies that create middle-class jobs.

Transportation unions came together this week demonstrating what we’ve always believed: there is nothing more dizzying to politicians than transportation unions in all sectors—private and public—coming together to forge a common agenda. That principle was on display Tuesday and here is what we agreed to:

End sequestration and replace it with serious budget policies focused on economic expansion and job creation.

Reject the Norwegian Air Shuttle (NAS) operating scheme, a plan expressly baked to “forum shop for cheap labor” and evade collective bargaining obligations.

Federally mandate two-person crews on freights trains, to safeguard workers and the public from the dangers associated with forcing a single crew member to handle all duties during normal operations and emergencies.

Support a global solution to aviation emissions rather than the unilateral approach attempted by the European Union.

Fully fund the Maritime Security Program to maintain a system that is critical to our nation’s military and economic security.

Reform harbor maintenance spending and pass the Water Resources Development Act, to make America more competitive and create thousands of jobs.

Reform the airport contract screening program by establishing a balanced process for evaluating private screening companies—and treating the current federal screener workforce fairly.

Close the overtime protection loophole in our law that denies intercity bus drivers the same protections enjoyed by 85 percent of Americans.

Combat the epidemic of assaults against bus drivers and provide sufficient time and facilities for driver bathroom breaks.

Join the Jobs to Move America Coalition, led by LAANE, to pursue rail car and bus procurement policies that reward good employers, boost American manufacturing jobs and connect veterans and people in disadvantaged communities to middle class jobs.

Stay tuned as we roll out these initiatives.

 

Working With Rep. LoBiondo on “Middle Class First” Transportation Policies

I’m looking forward to hosting TTD’s fall Executive Committee meeting next week. Strange concept: we’ll be welcoming a guest to our meeting, Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), who votes with working people whether his party agrees with him or not. Yes, we’ll welcome a member of Congress who, if it existed, would be a member of the House Middle Class First Caucus.

LoBiondo brings a gravitas to our conversation, as House aviation subcommittee chair, by being a member who is in the room when major transportation legislation is being written. But his expertise goes well beyond aviation—we’ll have a chance to talk shop with him on all the passenger and freight transportation issues confronting the nation and the challenges confronting transportation workers.

Rep. LoBiondo believes America can’t stand still and stop investing in our transportation system. That philosophy has kept millions of transportation and construction workers gainfully employed.

When some thought it was a good idea to change federal policy so that foreign interests can own and control U.S. airlines and threaten middle-class jobs, LoBiondo led the fight to stop that.

Every time a House member tries to defund or break up Amtrak the Congressman goes to work to stop those efforts.

When some in his own party tried to deny airline and rail worker fair rules to form and join unions, LoBiondo voted no.

He opposed recent attempts to scapegoat public transit, Amtrak and federal workers in the surface transportation bill.

When politicians in both parties tried to undermine the U.S. Merchant Marine and the good jobs it supports and sealift capacity it provides to our military, LoBiondo championed the opposition.

And he has always believed in (and voted for) protecting construction workers with federal prevailing wage protections.

With all the big transportation bills staring us in the face, this visit with LoBiondo gives us a chance to begin a strategic mobilization behind a “middle class first” transportation policy.

 

TTD Urges the House to Vote No on Young-Petri Amendment to Water Bill

 

Vote NO on the Young-Petri Amendment to WRRDA

 Dear Representative:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I ask that you oppose the Young-Petri amendment (#21) to the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2013 (WRRDA).  While TTD supports the underlying legislation, Young-Petri would unnecessarily require the Army Corps of Engineers to contract with private firms for surveying and mapping services, and jeopardize the jobs of qualified, public service professionals. 

This amendment would do nothing to improve the efficiency or flexibility for Corps surveying and mapping responsibilities.  In fact, the Corps already contracts extensively with the private sector for these services.  The decision as to when it is appropriate to use their own staff, a public agency or a private contractor for this work should remain with the Corps’ leadership who understand the needs of specific projects.  Should this amendment be adopted, Congress would be creating a special set-aside for the private firms in this industry and tying the hands of the experts and specialists who manage these projects.  In addition, the amendment would set a bad precedent and is contrary to recent legal and regulatory efforts to ensure “special consideration” of using federal employees instead of contractors.

WRRDA is an important piece of legislation that will bring much needed investment and reform to our nation’s water infrastructure.  However, Young-Petri will have a negative effect on the Corps’ ability to use best judgment and practices when performing critical surveying and mapping duties and it will deal a devastating blow to those professionals who currently perform that work.  I urge you to vote no on this amendment and preserve the integrity and bipartisan principles in the underlying bill.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

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TTD Honors School Bus Drivers During Safety Week, Announces December Summit

WASHINGTON, DC—The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) joins the rest of the nation this week in thanking the men and women dedicated to transporting children to and from school during National School Bus Safety Week. In recognition of the challenges faced by school bus drivers, today TTD is announcing it will host a School Bus Summit on Dec. 2, 2013, in Washington, D.C., with its member unions.

 “It is time to both thank school bus drivers for the indispensable role they play in making sure our kids are safe and secure, and also to address their everyday challenges,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind.

School buses remain the safest form of transportation for school children, carrying 25 million students to and from school every day on approximately 500,000 buses. TTD honors the drivers for their unyielding commitment to safety and dedication to their communities.

“The untold story is that school bus drivers are expected to fulfill their enormous responsibilities while too often driving overcrowded buses and without adequate support and training,” Wytkind said. “Meanwhile, unscrupulous private entities seek to outsource their jobs on the cheap and force them to work under often difficult conditions.”

To address many of these challenges, TTD will bring together union activists and drivers and federal regulators in the December summit. Participants will share ideas and strategies to address pressing concerns, including privatization of bus service, unmet training needs, overcrowded buses and burdensome employment requirements.

“The TTD School Bus Summit will focus on the men and women who work in this sector,” Wytkind added. “We cannot expect our nation’s school bus drivers to work in substandard conditions due to flawed policies and employers who cut all the wrong corners.”

More details on the summit will follow in November.

CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, (O) 202.628.9292, (M) 703.395.2195

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Reforms to Contract Screening Program Important to Aviation Safety

Cosponsor H.R. 1455, the Contract Screener Reform and Accountability Act

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I urge you to cosponsor the Contract Screener Reform and Accountability Act (H.R. 1455).  This legislation will implement changes to the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) contract screening program in order to strengthen aviation security and to institute a more balanced evaluation process for private screening companies.

Too often, front-line federal Transportation Security Officers (TSO’s) are demonized and scapegoated for simply doing their jobs and implementing policies dictated by TSA leadership.  In this environment, calls for turning over more TSA screening responsibility to the private sector becomes a convenient and all too predictable rallying cry from those who believe that government is always the problem or who want to enrich certain private contractors.  The truth is that federal TSO’s have served our nation and its aviation system well in an extremely difficult time and working environment.  And contracting out is not the advertised elixir that many claim and in fact creates oversight and security issues that must be addressed. 

In fact, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently found that TSA has failed to ensure proper oversight of private companies that provide passenger and baggage screening services and to conduct the proper analysis of private versus federal screener performance.  Additionally, existing law does not do enough to ensure that only qualified and trusted entities are providing security service at our nation’s airports.  Specifically, under current law, there is a process for subsidiaries of foreign-owned corporations to obtain contracts for screening and take over these important jobs.   

In order to ensure that TSA sufficiently oversees private screeners, H.R. 1455 would require security breaches at airports with contracted screening services to be reported to TSA officials.  The bill would provide better accountability and transparency by preventing any screening services to be performed by a subcontractor.  The bill also takes steps to guarantee that TSA has the ability to adequately judge the effectiveness of private screeners.  It would mandate covert testing of contract screeners so that their performance can be monitored and compared to that of federal screeners and impose penalties on those that would compromise these tests.  It would also require airports that utilize private screeners to communicate this fact to the flying public and require private companies to track and report all passenger complaints.

In addition, this bill takes steps to ensure that current federal screeners are treated fairly if an airport chooses to privatize its screening services and that such contracts are awarded appropriately.  Besides prohibiting foreign-owned companies from obtaining screening contracts, the bill would mandate that private companies provide existing personnel the right of first refusal to jobs and offer compensation and benefits equal or greater than what they receive at the time of privatization. 

I urge you to cosponsor this important legislation that will enhance the oversight of private screening activities at our nation’s airports, and help support the current screener workers.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

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FMCSA Should Reject Tour Company’s Request to Use 50 Non-Licensed European Drivers

September 16, 2013

Mr. Thomas Yager
Chief, FMCSA Driver and Carrier Operations Division
Office of Bus and Truck Standards and Operations
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC  20590

RE:     Commercial Driver’s License Standards: Application for Exemption; Miami Nice Tours
Notice of Application for Exemption; Request for Comments
Docket No. FMCSA-2013-0284 

Dear Mr. Yager,

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I write in opposition to the application submitted by Miami Nice Tours (Miami) to exempt itself and 50 European drivers from certain provisions of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.  By way of background, TTD consists of 33 affiliated unions, including those that represent motorcoach drivers who abide by the regulations from which Miami seeks exemption[1].

TTD opposes the Miami application which would allow the company to hire 50 European drivers exempt from having to obtain U.S. commercial driver’s licenses (CDL).  These non-licensed drivers would be responsible for operating motorcoaches for approximately 87 short day tours and cross-country tours throughout the U.S. each year.  While the application is characterized as only seeking exemption from the requirement under 49 CFR part 383.23 that all commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators possess a CDL, Miami’s request would also exempt the company from four federal regulations (49 CFR parts 391.23, 391.25, 391.51(b)(2),(4),(5), and 391.53) that require important annual inquiries and other investigations into drivers’ safety performance histories and driving records.  This application would run counter to the immense efforts FMCSA has made to enhance motorcoach safety through increased inspections, compliance reviews, and out-of-service orders.

According to Miami’s application, the 50 European drivers would serve primarily as hosts to the passengers, assisting them with currency exchange and finding lodging, recreation and entertainment.[2]  The non-licensed individuals would serve only as “backup” drivers to the U.S. CDL holders doing most of the driving.[3]  Miami further states that its customers “simply would not book the tour without the non-U.S. CDL holders accompanying them….”[4] 

While Miami explains that its customers have a “long-term relationship” with the non-licensed drivers and want their accompaniment on tours, the company fails to provide an explanation for why the 50 individuals cannot simply be hired only as onboard tour guides or concierges capable of meeting passenger needs.[5]  Hiring them in this capacity would eliminate the need for this exemption altogether.

The company also never makes the case for why it needs additional drivers or why it is unable to hire additional CDL holders to meet this unidentified need.   If the company is concerned that the planned tours would require a second driver in order to give the primary driver a break or to comply with federal hours of service regulations (which the company never explicitly states), then it must accept its responsibility to hire CDL holders who can serve in that role.  Even if Miami could explain why the additional drivers are needed, its proposed solution (hire non-licensed drivers) could not satisfy federal safety requirements. 

While we acknowledge that under the planned scenario the non-licensed drivers would spend limited time behind the wheel, FMCSA should not weaken its safety regulations based on the fact that these are backup drivers.  To the extent that they are in control of a motorcoach, the drivers must possess the necessary credentials certifying their ability to safely operate a passenger-carrying vehicle.  Allowing non-licensed drivers who are unfamiliar with our country’s highways, road rules and important safety regulations to drive 40-42 passengers for any length of time has the potential to put the safety of the driver, passengers and other motorists at risk. 

We also reject the similarities Miami tries to make between a previous FMCSA decision to grant a company’s drivers exemption from 49 CFR part 383.23 and its own request.  The FMCSA exemption that Miami references was issued to a manufacturing company for two of its field test engineers to test drive vehicles.[6]  This is in stark contrast to Miami’s request for an exemption for 50 individuals driving 40 passengers across the U.S.  Further, the referenced company submitted to FMCSA documentation of their drivers’ safe driving records.[7]  Miami makes no mention of providing such information to the agency in its application, only noting that its document includes a roster of the non-licensed drivers and copies of their credentials.[8] 

It is also important to note that if FMCSA grants Miami’s request to exempt the drivers from part 383, the drivers would also be exempt from the drug and alcohol testing requirements of 49 CFR part 382.  Under part 382, CMV operators subject to “the commercial driver’s license requirements of part 383…” are required to undergo controlled substance and alcohol use testing.  Approving Miami’s application would create a glaring discrepancy in which the non-licensed individuals would not undergo the same scrutiny as U.S. licensed drivers.

We understand that Miami would require the prospective drivers to participate in its random controlled substance and alcohol testing program and to “submit to a pre-employment drug test prior to operating a CMV covered by federal drug and alcohol testing requirements.”[9]  Although Miami would take steps to conduct drug and alcohol testing, a company specific plan cannot be used as a substitute for agency mandated testing procedures.

We also take issue with Miami’s request for relief for itself from four regulations that require companies to obtain important driver record and safety performance history information and to maintain files of these records.  These regulations require companies to make annual inquiries and reviews and to perform other investigations to obtain driver identification and employment verification information, obtain driver medical examiner certificates and information on drivers’ accidents, and to ensure that they meet the minimum requirements for safe driving and are qualified to drive a CMV, among other things.  Motor carriers are to obtain such information from drivers’ previous employers and from states and state licensing agencies from which the driver held an operating license. 

We realize that since the 50 prospective drivers are all non-U.S. residents, this information is not available from American employers or U.S. state licensing agencies as called for by the regulations.  However, we find it difficult to believe that Miami is fully incapable of obtaining the information through the drivers’ current employers or foreign licensing agencies, especially as Miami states that it will verify “by a certified statement from each bus company’s insurance company with whom the driver is employed” that a driver has not been involved in a crash over the last five years.[10]  And while Miami plans to obtain a list from the non-licensed drivers identifying their “violations and or crashes” within the last year, the information it receives will not create a complete picture of the drivers’ previous accidents, violations, license status, or driving and safety histories.[11]  If Miami cannot review the drivers’ complete history, then they should not operate motorcoaches on U.S. roadways.

In addition to the serious safety concerns posed by the non-licensed drivers, Miami’s plan would effectively outsource jobs that would otherwise employ qualified and appropriately credentialed U.S. drivers.  Miami makes no claim that there is a shortage of CDL holders, and given Florida’s 7.1% unemployment rate and our experience and knowledge of this sector, we believe there are plenty of qualified drivers readily available to drive for Miami.  Allowing a company to hire non-licensed, non-domiciled individuals in place of U.S. CDL holders is unacceptable.

We appreciate the agency providing the opportunity for public comment on this application and for giving the request a thorough review.  In the interest of public safety and American licensed drivers, we urge FMCSA to reject Miami’s application.

Sincerely,

Edward Wytkind
President



[1] A complete list of TTD affiliated unions is attached.

[2] Miami Nice Excursions, dba Miami Nice Tours, Application for Exemption, April 17, 2013, page 3

[3] Id. 3.

[4] Id. 2.

[5] Id. 2.

[6] Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Standards; Daimler Trucks North America (Daimler) Exemption Application, Notice of final disposition; granting of application for exemption, 77 Fed. Reg. 31422-31423 (May 25, 2012).

[7] Id. 31423

[8] Miami Nice Excursions, dba Miami Nice Tours, Application for Exemption, April 17, 2013, page 5.

[9] Id. 4.

[10] Id.4.

[11] Id. 3.

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Business as Usual Won’t Cut it

The AFL-CIO’s just concluded quadrennial convention was an honest conversation about the labor movement’s future.  It included robust debate on a variety of issues, but perhaps most importantly, union leaders and activists pledged to seek common bond with all working people whether they belong to a union or not.

Amidst all of the important work and hours of discussion on everything from the anemic economy, the hollowing out of collective bargaining rights, the decline in unionization and perverse trade policies that are ruining industries and careers, a decision was made to reach beyond our own ranks and enlist the power of non-union workers who are all fighting for the same thing — middle-class jobs with fair pay, reliable health care and retirement security.  That is the vision and strength behind Working America, which is mobilizing working people who are aching for representation in a cruel economy.

This is a no-brainer.  Unions now represent less than one in 10 workers in the private sector and overall about 13 percent of all employees in the private and public sectors combined.  This means that at a time when the economy isn’t producing enough good jobs, most people are on their own without the force of collective bargaining behind them.  Of course, some people, such as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, think the economy can somehow grow with minimum wage jobs that doom too many families to poverty.  Meanwhile, the middle class is vanishing, inequality is soaring and wages are stagnant — mostly because workers don’t have unions to stand up for them.  How did this happen, you ask?  Check out what Economic Policy Institute has found:

-         Wages are about 14 percent higher among unionized workers – the gap widens when you add in health care and pension benefits.

-         Unionized workers are about 29 percent more likely to be covered by employer-provided health insurance and 54 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions.

-         While union members have an earnings and health care advantage, the share of Americans in the work force represented by unions has been reduced by half since the early 1970s.

-         The decline of unionization explains about three-fourths of the wage gap for men between white collar and blue collar jobs, and more than a fifth of the wage gap in those jobs for women.

Note to politicians:  you might want to start talking about (not just in union halls) the obvious link between the collapse of the middle class and the declining numbers of union members in America.

I am inspired by some of the work being done by new allies in the fight.  For example, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Executive Director of the National Taxi Workers Alliance, Bhairavi Desai, who is the first representative from a non-traditional labor organization elected to the AFL-CIO Executive Council.  This organization is focused on giving voice to taxi drivers in America who have been the victim of cronyism among taxi owners who routinely abuse independent contractor laws (with the help of too many local politicians, by the way) as a deliberate strategy to deny these workers the power of collective bargaining.  The result:  compensation rates are ridiculously low and any kind of benefits are non-existent.

This new alliance with taxi workers joins our other efforts to build grassroots capacity and power such as the new allies we have enlisted to boost transportation manufacturing jobs in America and to promote and expand public transportation.  We have only just begun, but we are on our way to expanding this movement and holding the people we help to elect accountable for their actions and inactions.

This strategy to build larger and more powerful coalitions will be linked with a new way of doing business in our communities and with politicians.  Working people starve for a powerful voice on the job and in our politics.  They need a movement that will help workers who are falling behind claw their way back into the middle class.  We will be focused in the months ahead on giving these workers in the transportation sector that voice.

 

On This Labor Day, We Pay Tribute to Transportation Workers

WASHINGTON, DC—The following statement was issued by Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), in observance of Labor Day:

“On this Labor Day, we honor the tremendous efforts of transportation workers. Whether they board or service a bus or a train or an aircraft, move cargo at seaports or airports, build the roadways, or make sure that our entire system is safe and secure – together they keep a nation moving and we honor their service.

“But Labor Day also reminds us of the millions out of work or underemployed. In America we are signatory to an unwritten contract that binds us together. For generations, that contract has empowered workers to pursue the American Dream and to expect a chance to improve their lives through good and safe jobs, and middle-class wages.

“But the very foundation upon which our economy rests is weakening. And while working families suffer, a dangerous obsession with austerity in Washington is making it impossible to invest in the things that matter and that make our economy strong – like our transportation system and infrastructure. Our political leaders must push back against this austerity agenda and advance a serious job creation agenda.

“On Monday we officially honor the contributions, large and small, of transportation workers and all working people in this nation. We also pledge to step up our game in defending and creating good jobs, empowering more workers to form and join unions, and ending the neglect of our transportation system that is harming the economy, making us less competitive and idling millions of jobs.”

Contact:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262

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Flight Attendants to be Covered by Long-Overdue Health and Safety Protections

WASHINGTON, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), made the following statement in support of the FAA’s final policy statement addressing flight attendant workplace safety in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):

“Today’s announcement by the FAA means that America’s flight attendants who work every day to enhance the safety of air travel, will finally be covered by basic and long-overdue safety and health protections.

“For too long flight attendants have fallen through the cracks of federal safety protections resulting in high injury rates and decades of exposure to avoidable hazards. We commend the Obama Administration for finally closing a policy loophole that effectively deprived a generation of flight attendants the basic safety protections enjoyed by most Americans.

“I want to thank Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Labor Secretary Thomas Perez for their support for this important policy change and for the leadership their agencies have brought to this issue. And today’s advancement in worker safety would not have been possible without the work, collaboration and commitment of FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety David Michaels.”

Contact:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 703.395.2195

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TTD Opposes DOJ’s Attempts to Block American/US Airways Merger

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC  20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I write to express our opposition to efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to block the pending merger between US Airways Group, Inc. and American Airlines’ parent corporation AMR.  Your actions run counter to the interests of employees at these two air carriers represented by TTD unions and are inconsistent with the DOJ’s recent treatment of transactions involving airline consolidation.

We support the stated goal of the DOJ to ensure “robust competition” in the airline industry marketplace.  Multiple competitive carriers, offering a variety of services and destinations, not only provide a benefit to consumers and businesses, but sustain middle-class jobs at airlines throughout the country that in turn support local and regional economies. 

But the recent decision to block this merger is inconsistent with that objective.  American Airlines and US Airways, if forced to operate as stand-alone companies, will find it difficult to effectively compete with their larger and better positioned competitors as well as with foreign airlines serving lucrative international routes.  It is significant that the mega-carriers that American and US Airways must compete with are themselves the products of recent mergers consummated with the apparent blessing of DOJ.  If this merger does not proceed, both American Airlines and US Airways could once again find themselves in financial peril and the jobs, rights, wages and benefits of front-line workers would likewise be put at serious risk.

The DOJ’s inaction when Northwest and Delta merged or when United and Continental combined is what led US Airways and American to seek a merger.  By combining forces, these airlines are just trying to remain viable competitors in a shrinking competitive landscape that the DOJ allowed to exist.

Blocking this merger will also interfere with the timely conclusion of the American Airlines bankruptcy proceeding.  The fact is that without this merger, additional concessions from the American Airlines workforce could be sought – a result that is simply unacceptable given the financial setbacks these employees have already experienced.

For these reasons, we urge the Department of Justice to reconsider its recent filing and to allow the merger of American Airlines and US Airway to proceed.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

cc:  William J. Baer, Assistant Attorney General, Antitrust Division
       Ryan J. Danks, Attorney, Antitrust Division

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Where’d They All Go?

Ed SpeakingCongress officially closed for a five-week recess at the end of July.  Five weeks—that’s quite a contrast to the struggles that so many Americans are facing as the economic recovery remains slow.  And with “austerity politics” gripping Washington and the nation, many Americans are just taking a pass on vacation as they wonder if extremists in Washington will ever end their outrageous antics that are starving our economy and blocking jobs legislation.

But the Congressional Great Escape hasn’t stopped a number of zealots from piping up with recycled schemes to keep the cutting going, trying to slash government programs as though the cuts themselves will magically get our economy on track.

Some in the Tea Party crowd have trotted out an old “Penny Plan” to impose 1 percent across-the-board cuts by essentially cutting one penny from every dollar the federal government spends for two years.  And House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has generously offered to restore some of the cuts lost to the federal sequester, but only if President Obama and Democrats agree to cut Social Security and Medicare—effectively trading one bad idea for another.  Nice.  We reduce the already reckless cuts, put more federal programs and workers in harm’s way, and in return we hurt seniors and the poor.  No thanks.

In Europe, austerity measures have prevented, not helped, economic recovery. The Eurozone economy has declined steadily for 18 months, and the jobless rate for the most recent quarter was 12 percent—up from 9.5 percent in 2009.  That’s hardly the elixir we need here at home for what ails our economy and job market.

Here in the U.S., the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently reported just how damaging the sequester has been to our jobs picture.  The CBO estimates that keeping the sequestration cuts in place through Fiscal 2014 will cost up to 1.6 million jobs.

And a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that more and more Americans say that sequester has “significantly affected” them, with lower wage earners reporting the highest impact.  Some in Congress think that only the very rich matter in this debate.  But these respondents are voters too and are waiting for their elected officials to deliver on job-creating initiatives. 

But not everyone has gotten the memo.  Just before they left town, obstructionists in Congress blocked the job-creating THUD housing and transportation spending bill—a measure that had once enjoyed bipartisan support.  They are completely ignoring the fact that a great way to restore a strong economy is to repair our shockingly deteriorated infrastructure and transportation system.  Doing so will put people to work and increase American competitiveness.

Over the August recess, I’ll be taking a look at several infrastructure-saving, economy-building, job-creating bills (everything from the Water Resources Development Act to the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act) and asking the question “where are they now?” Let’s hope Congress can answer that question in September.  

Aviation Week—Keep Air Transport Out of U.S.-EU Trade Talks

[As published by TTD President Edward Wytkind in Aviation Week Aug. 5, 2013]

When you operate the world’s safest, most advanced and most lucrative aviation system—as the U.S. does—others are naturally going to want a piece of that pie. It is up to the U.S. government, therefore, not to slice it up at the expense of the American aviation industry and its workforce.

This is exactly what the EU is trying to achieve by proposing to throw air transport services into a much larger pot of trade negotiations known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The stated goal of TTIP is to find areas in which the EU and the U.S. can find mutual trade opportunities and then agree to reforms in areas such as regulation and investment.

The first round of these talks covered issues such as energy, raw materials, intellectual property rights and agricultural goods. Before Round Two begins in Brussels in October, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) should tell the Europeans that the U.S. has no interest in including issues covered by air services agreements that for more than six decades have been negotiated through a fair and balanced bilateral process under the experienced leadership of the State and Transportation departments.

Air services have long been excluded from broader international trade agreements. U.S. administrations—Democrats and Republicans alike—have instead pursued bilateral liberalization agreements. We now have 110 such pacts, the last of which was signed in March with Guyana. This system has generally served us well by opening and expanding markets for carriers and their employees. These agreements have eliminated many restrictions on the ability of carriers to select routes, establish frequencies and set prices, benefiting the U.S. airlines and passengers and creating job opportunities. So what exactly is broken that needs to be fixed?

Here’s the punch line. No matter what spin the EU tries to place on its objective—enhanced service, job creation—the motives behind its insistence on including air services in TTIP are clear: They are about forcing an ownership-and-control agenda that we know from experience will harm U.S. airlines and their employees. In addition, the EU wishes to have its airlines operate flights within U.S. domestic markets—operations that would be at odds with U.S. immigration, tax and environmental laws and that are not allowed in any other business sector.

The EU attempted to make these changes during negotiations for the recently concluded U.S.-EU Air Transport Agreement. Thankfully, U.S. negotiators rejected these proposals while still achieving a range of market-opening objectives. These negotiators, with the most intimate knowledge of the aviation industry, understood that weakening our foreign ownership-and-control and cabotage laws would be disastrous to U.S. airlines and their workforces. Yet EU officials now hope to circumvent the existing agreement with the U.S. by introducing air transport services into the broader TTIP talks. Their aim? To wrest control of critical aviation regulatory issues from the watchful eye of those government experts who know better. This is a poorly veiled strategy that should be firmly rejected by the Obama administration.

The USTR should not have to look far for support of this position. The American public and Congress have consistently rejected attempts to change existing aviation laws. In 2005, lawmakers soundly rejected a Bush administration proposal (later withdrawn) to allow foreign entities to exercise control over U.S. airlines. And just last month, more than 150 members of Congress sent a letter to the USTR urging rejection of the EU’s aviation agenda in TTIP talks.

For myriad reasons from public safety to national security, the airline industry has been treated as providing more than ordinary goods and services. Given their unique nature, air services have been subject to a separate administrative regime rather than be included in more complicated, politically charged trade talks.

Modern trade agreements go far beyond setting tariff levels, and now encapsulate an increasingly complex global economy. We have seen how balanced trade can create good jobs, boost the economy and open new markets. But we are living in an era in which perverse trade policies are ravaging entire industries and the middle-class jobs they support. We should not add the already complex world of air transport to that list.

The decisions our government makes in the TTIP talks will impact the future of U.S. airline passengers and jobs as well as the competitive positioning of our nation’s air carriers that are waging a tense battle in a highly competitive global aviation industry. This is a no-brainer—keep aviation out of TTIP negotiations.

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Obstructionists Derail Transportation Appropriations Jobs Bill

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on the Senate’s failure to pass the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) appropriations bill:

“It is a sad state when obstructionists in Washington can keep our economy and our deteriorating transportation system on hold while they carry out their austerity-laced partisan agenda.

“With today’s vote to kill the once bipartisan transportation appropriations jobs bill, the Senate Republican leadership has, yet again, snatched economic defeat from the jaws of victory.

“This comes on the heels of Republican leaders in the House pulling the transportation appropriations jobs bill from the floor on Wednesday after debate had already begun. They learned the hard and embarrassing lesson that there aren’t enough votes to support a bill that makes radical cuts to programs that improve American life and boost our economy.

“It is difficult to watch this spectacle given all the hot rhetoric we hear from these same obstructionists about the need to create good jobs in America. This is a jobs bill — for every billion dollars we invest in transportation more than 30,000 Americans go to work and we boost manufacturing as well. Do the math:  we have 12 million unemployed Americans. Perhaps the Senators who opposed this bill would like to ask a few of them if they’d like a chance to apply for the jobs they just voted to kill.

“To all those Senators who blocked passage of this legislation today, I would ask these questions:

“Which functionally obsolete bridge in your state will you not repair or replace?

“Will you inform your commuters that mass transit and rail service will be cut and is about to become more expensive? Will you let your motorists know that their already long commutes to work are about to get longer?

“Are you going to explain that longer lines at airports and more flight delays are ahead?
“Will you be informing business owners that getting their goods to domestic and overseas markets — through our freight system and ports — will take longer and be more expensive?

“This has fast become the worst period in the modern era for dysfunction and destructive partisanship in Washington. If the leaders that voters send to Washington cannot even direct investments to support the daily needs of Americans and businesses, such as a safe and reliable transportation system, then something is seriously wrong.

“Transportation labor will continue to mobilize in favor of transportation job investments, and we will publicly call out those in office who are pushing a dangerous austerity agenda that is accelerating the erosion of our transportation system, undermining American competitiveness, and dooming millions of Americans to long-term unemployment.”

###

Contact:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202-628-9262

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Frontline Surface Transportation Employees Need Adequate Security Training

Ms. Virginia Wise
Office of Security Policy and Industry Engagement
Surface Division, TSA-28
Transportation Security Administration
601 South 12th Street
Arlington, VA 20598-6028

RE: Request for Comments on Security Training Programs for Surface Mode
Employees
Notice; Request for Comments
Docket No. TSA-2013-0005
RIN 1652-AA55

Dear Ms. Wise:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I write to comment on the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Notice and Request for Comments on Security Training Programs for frontline workers in the rail, public transit and over-the-road bus industries.  By way of background, TTD consists of 33 affiliated unions that represent workers in the transportation sector, including many of the workers who are covered by the security training mandate that is the subject of this proceeding.[1]

At the outset, we express our strong support for the security training program requirements mandated by Congress in the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act).  During debate on that legislation, TTD and our affiliates advocated for  provisions to ensure that frontline transportation workers are trained on addressing potential security threats, that their training incorporates certain minimum elements, and that the training programs are reviewed and approved by the Department Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary.  As TSA continues to develop the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to implement these provisions, we urge the agency to ensure its rulemaking strengthens security by adhering to the congressional mandate of the 9/11 Act.

In order for the security training programs to be effective, employers must be required to include the minimum standards established by Congress.  Ensuring that frontline employees are able to determine the seriousness of a threat, to communicate and coordinate with fellow workers and passengers, and to be versed in evacuation and security incident procedures, is critical during emergency situations.  While we agree that some flexibility may be needed to take into consideration the uniqueness across the affected industries, all training programs must include core elements to ensure a minimum level of instruction.  Congress voted for the elements specified in the 9/11 Act and TSA has the responsibility to fulfill the mandate.

We appreciate that some employers already have existing security training programs in place, and we recognize that some plans may currently comply with the security training provisions.  However, all training programs, whether newly established or pre-existing, must be reviewed and approved by the DHS Secretary, and programs found to be noncompliant must be remedied.  Doing so will ensure that all plans will properly train workers on how to assess and respond to security threats thereby helping to improve the security of our rail, transit and bus systems.

TTD notes that pursuant to the statute, TSA was supposed to issue regulations to implement the 9/11 Act provisions within one-year of enactment for public transportation employees, and within six months for both railroad and over-the-road bus workers.  Since Congress passed the law in 2007, TTD has consistently urged TSA to issue these important regulations; however, nearly five-and-a-half years later, the agency has failed to do so.  While we appreciate that in this docket TSA is seeking information on current training programs, the agency must move forward with issuing a rulemaking to implement this mandate.

The men and women we help represent work on the front lines of our transportation system and want to ensure its security more than anyone else.  But in order for these workers to protect themselves, passengers and the integrity of the systems they work in, TSA must ensure frontline workers receive the training that Congress directed and do so as soon as possible.  We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments.

 

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

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[1] Attached is a complete list of TTD affiliate unions.

TTD Supports Bill to Mitigate Pension Losses at AA, Calls for Swift Passage

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement in support of a bill designed to mitigate pension losses at American Airlines (H.R.2591):

“TTD is pleased that a bipartisan group of lawmakers, led by Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), has stepped forward to support workers at American Airlines who have seen their pensions frozen as a result of the AA bankruptcy proceedings. H.R.2591 would help cushion the pension losses of workers, including those represented by the Transport Workers Union (TWU), a TTD affiliate, by allowing employees to defer taxes on the equity payments received by rolling them into a retirement fund. This bill, which is not opposed by the airline, is a common sense solution that will allow workers to receive the same tax treatment as airline workers in previous Chapter 11 proceedings.

“We never want to see pensions lost as a result of bankruptcy, but this bill allows workers to mitigate these losses and continue to plan for their retirement. I urge the House and Senate to quickly pass this legislation, and support frontline workers at American Airlines.”

###

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 33 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262

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TTD Supports the Reasonable Regulation of Coal Ash in McKinley Bill

July 10, 2013

The Honorable David McKinley
U.S. House of Representatives
412 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC  20515

Dear Representative McKinley:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I write in support of legislation you have introduced, the Coal Residuals Reuse and Management Act of 2013 (H.R. 2218) that will allow for the reasonable regulation of coal ash in transportation and other construction projects.

From mining to transport and of course as a domestic energy source, coal plays an important role in our economy and specifically creates and sustains jobs in the transportation sector.  At a time when too many Americans are out of work and desperately seeking to support their families, we should be embracing measures that will create the right environment for private sector job growth. H.R. 2218 establishes workable federal standards to regulate the management and disposal of coal ash.  This will ensure that coal ash can continue to be used as recycled materials in construction projects which in turn will keep raw material costs down and support this important segment of our economy.

TTD appreciates your efforts to create jobs and grow our economy and we stand with you in support of H.R. 2218.  Thank you for your leadership on this, and so many other issues important to transportation workers.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

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Support the Price Amendment to Maintain Amtrak Funding

SUPPORT THE PRICE AMENDMENT TO MAINTAIN AMTRAK FUNDING

Dear Representative:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, I urge you to vote for the Price Amendment to the Transportation-HUD appropriations bill that would restore funding for Amtrak to fiscal year 2013 levels.  If this amendment is not adopted, the safety and efficiency of the rail system will be threatened and middle-class jobs will be at risk at a time when Amtrak is more popular and self-sufficient than ever.

Last week, the House Transportation-HUD Subcommittee approved a funding bill that provides $950 million for Amtrak.  It appropriates $600 million for capital and debt service, or 34 percent below the fiscal year 2013 post-sequester level.  The operating account is funded at $350 million, a 21 percent cut post-sequester.  Today, when Amtrak is setting ridership records year after year, we should increase our investment in passenger rail rather than making drastic and irresponsible cuts.

Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman has publicly stated that these cuts pose a significant risk to the carrier’s ability to operate safely and provide current services.  Amtrak’s ability to maintain track and equipment would be threatened and would require “slow orders” to continue to operate passenger rail safely.  Cutting the appropriation by 30 percent is likely to cause the elimination of one or more routes, threatening the economic well-being of hundreds of communities around the country that depend on Amtrak.  Finally, these cuts will require Amtrak to layoff hundreds of workers during an era of slow economic growth when good jobs are difficult to find.

Please take a stand against these dangerous cuts to Amtrak’s funding and support the Price Amendment when it is considered in the Appropriations Committee tomorrow.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

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Serious Times Call for Serious Jobs Agenda

Ed Wytkind, Govs. Martin O'Malley and Peter Shumlin

Ed Wytkind (left), MD Gov. Martin O’Malley and VT Gov. Peter Shumlin

If you are a regular MOVEAmerica blog reader it won’t surprise you to know that not much surprises me when it comes to a lack of action in Washington in advancing real job-creating programs.

That is why I was privileged to participate today at an event that is a sharp contrast to the dysfunction and obsession with austerity that continue to grip Washington. Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley led us in a discussion about strategies to shift the debate from austerity measures to job creation.

The most eye-opening aspect of our discussion was how governors are actually getting things done while Washington stands still.  In other words, the gridlock in Congress has forced governors to move their own initiatives and find innovative ways to pay for them.

The commitment to rebuilding and modernizing our infrastructure and advancing a serious job creation agenda was clearly on display today, as these innovative governors – under the DGA banner – unveiled Investing in Our Public Infrastructure to Create Jobs.  This is exactly the kind of action we need from our elected leaders.

The message I delivered today was straightforward.  We can’t cut our way to prosperity.  Speeches and fairy dust won’t put people to work.  And had Congress funded a plan like the one DGA has unveiled or the President has championed, we would have at least a million more Americans on the job operating, maintaining and modernizing our transportation system.  There’s your no-brainer of the day.

There are clear actions we must take:

We must enact a long-term investment strategy that will avoid the insolvency that federal transit, highway and bridge programs face due to Washington’s failure to act.  DGA has provided a path forward – it is time to get something done.

We need a greater focus on the deteriorating state of transit systems that face both growing ridership and demand for new services, and collapsing balance sheets that result in service and job cuts and fare increases.

We need a long-term commitment to modernize our aviation system by making sure we fund the Next Generation air traffic control system and expand our airports.

We need to fully fund Amtrak’s expansion and improvements, and make Amtrak the centerpiece of the nation’s high-speed rail development.

We need to get serious about investing in our ports and navigation channels that are fast becoming uncompetitive with the rest of the world.

And we need new investments in regionally significant freight projects that connect all modes of transportation and feed into a national freight strategy.

Governors have to deal with the realities of a deteriorating infrastructure and weak job market.  When they go to a podium and discuss problems in their states they actually have to fix them.  Unlike too many in Washington, they can’t look the other way when their transportation systems, schools and sewers are falling apart.  They can’t ignore underemployment and unemployment.

Today governors Shumlin and O’Malley showed us a better path forward.  We will be joining them on the road to a real economic recovery with long-term investments in our economy leading the way.

Heritage Foundation Channels Rick Perry in Questions for DOT Secretary Nominee

Washington Reagan National Airport

Anticipating the Senate confirmation hearing for Anthony Foxx (and hopefully his speedy confirmation by the Senate) to be the next Secretary of Transportation, I came upon a piece by the Heritage Foundation which said the Senate panel, “should ask Foxx the following 10 questions.”

 

But the strangest thing happened.  After question eight, they just stopped.  No more questions.  It brought back memories of Texas Governor Rick Perry famously promising to eliminate three federal agencies if he received the Republican nod for president, but being unable to name three.  “Sorry, oops” were his last words before becoming an instant classic on YouTube.

In all of Heritage’s 10, I mean eight, questions for Foxx, the federal government is blamed for what is wrong with our transportation system.  Less government the better they say, 10, I mean eight, times over.

With this in mind, I have 10 questions for the people who work at Heritage.

  1. Do you take Amtrak on business trips? Seems convenient. It is just a two-block walk from Heritage on government sidewalks to enter the successful public-private partnership Union Station. Then “all aboard” federally supported passenger rail that keeps getting faster.
  2. Do you fly? The world’s largest, most-advanced and yes publicly funded air traffic control and airport system keeps you safe every step of the way. Thanks FAA!
  3. Do you like to get away from the office? You are close by the federal mall. Need directions? Ask a park ranger! I’d suggest going to the Smithsonian for its America on the Move exhibit, which shows how infrastructure actually built our nation. Admission is free!
  4. How is your commute? Do you drive in from Virginia perhaps, crossing one of many publicly funded bridges over the Potomac? Or do you use those Metro Smart Benefits, the federal tax policy that lowers your commuting costs on the federally supported and heavily used Metro system?
  5. How is the pay at Heritage? The most recent data show your president did quite nicely. I’m sure the (government-approved) tax deductible status for your 501(c)3 organization must make it easier to keep Heritage fully staffed and thriving.
  6. Your reports have many facts and figures thanks to a skilled and well-educated workforce. The author of your report on Foxx went to a fine institution, the University of Georgia, a great football school and yes, a federal land grant college.
  7. Do you have vacation plans? Better make them soon, as (public) schools are almost out. Perhaps a road trip along the Eisenhower (a Republican!) Interstate Highway system built by workers earning a fair wage because of the Davis-Bacon Act (two more Republicans!)? Or maybe a cruise, leaving from one of our many public ports?
  8. Do you have plans for when you retire? Social Security and Medicare, two of the federal government’s greatest success stories, will help keep you healthy and better able to pay your bills.
  9. Sorry, oops.
  10. Sorry, oops.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From Tarmac to Takeoff, Let’s Ensure Safety of Our Aircraft

aviationSitting in an airplane, taxiing from gate to runway, the last thing you want to think about is the safety and oversight of the repair work performed on your aircraft.  And you wouldn’t have to if the thousands of mechanics and inspectors who work to keep our passenger aircraft flying safely had their way.

Represented by our member unions, the Transport Workers Union, the International Association of Machinists and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (inspectors), these dedicated professionals have been advocating with us for years for better safety and security regulations of aircraft repair work that is contracted out.

Now a new report is calling attention, once again, to shortcomings in our government’s system for overseeing the repair and maintenance of U.S. aircraft.  It declares: the Federal Aviation Administration “does not have an effective oversight process for foreign and domestic repair stations.”

Here’s a bit of background:

The Reagan Administration weakened rules more than 20 years ago opening the floodgates to outsourcing with little or no safety oversight.  Today, hundreds of FAA-certified facilities dot the globe thanks to explosive growth in outsourcing.  Aircraft repair work is now done at 4,800 repair stations from Brazil, China and Peru to Georgia and California.

As we noted last November, “…of the 71 percent of heavy maintenance that is now farmed out by U.S. airlines, 27 percent of that work goes overseas where regulations often fail to live up to the standards imposed in America.”  In 1996, U.S. carriers spent $1.5 billion on contract maintenance – that figure almost tripled to $4.2 billion in 2011.  By 2021, experts predict $76 billion will be going to contract repair stations located both in this country and around the world.

That places a crucial burden on the FAA to make sure enough well-trained professionals are using a rational, consistent system to repair, maintain and inspect aircraft at outsourced facilities.  But the DOT IG’s report confirmed what we have known for a long time — the FAA has not provided its inspection workforce with the tools or training it needs to do an effective job.

And when oversight is lax, problems at the stations can occur.  Of the 27 repair stations examined by the IG, 21 did not maintain accurate training records, 13 had weaknesses in their tool and equipment programs and 10 had deficiencies in their maintenance processes.

This is also why we have advocated aggressively for reforms that reflect today’s airline industry and have called out airlines such as JetBlue that rely heavily on foreign repair stations that, as this IG report points out, often fail to meet U.S. safety standards.

We owe the flying public a better way to oversee our aircraft repair system.  We need regulations that reflect the epidemic levels of outsourcing that define today’s airline industry.

 

TTD Presses Senate to Back Measure to Improve Our Nation’s Ports and Harbors

Support Reforms to Harbor Maintenance Investments in S. 601

Dear Senator:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I ask that you support final passage of the Water Resources Development Act of 2013 (S. 601), and preserve the reforms to Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund expenditures included in the Boxer-Vitter substitute.  Our nation’s waterways have been critically underfunded, and these reforms would bring a much needed increase to harbor maintenance funding to help improve our ports and waterways and promote economic growth and good-paying jobs.

In 1986 the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) and the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF) were established to provide a dedicated revenue stream funded through user fees to provide for the operation and maintenance of channels in ports and harbors.  The HMT is charged on the value of cargo arriving in U.S. ports, and the money collected is then deposited into the HMTF.  However, in recent years Congress has often diverted money from the HMTF to purposes other than harbor maintenance.  In FY 2011, for instance, barely half of the funds collected by the HMT were used for its intended purpose, creating a backlog of critical maintenance projects in our nation’s harbors and coastal waterways. This neglect of maintenance projects has a direct and damaging economic impact.

The Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the full channel dimensions at the nation’s 59 busiest ports are available less than 35 percent of the time.  Almost 30 percent of vessels traveling through U.S. ports are constrained due to the inadequate conditions of our navigation channels, resulting in billions of dollars in lost economic activity and job growth opportunities.  This lack of investment in our maritime infrastructure is making America less competitive as our international competitors invest billions to boost their maritime transportation capabilities.  For instance, China plans to invest over $40 billion dollars in their ports over the next five years, more than the U.S. has invested over the past 50 years.

Section 8003 of S. 601 creates a framework to bring harbor maintenance funding to a sustainable level.  Specifically, this section would authorize a minimum of $1 billion for harbor maintenance in FY 2014, with an increase of $100 million each year from FY 2015-2019.  Beginning in 2020, HMTF expenditures would be no less than the amount of revenue raised by the HMT, which in recent years has totaled about $1.6 billion.  In the immediate term, the $1 billion authorization would provide an increase of $174 million over 2011 funding levels for harbor maintenance.  The incremental increases in subsequent years would help reduce the $2.2 billion harbor maintenance backlog.  Setting expenditures at the level of HMT revenue would give our ports and harbors the reliable funding source they need to keep our navigation channels open and our economy moving forward.

Real investment in harbor maintenance is vital to the health of an industry that supports 500,000 jobs, plays a critical role in expanding U.S. exports and is the gateway to international trade and humanitarian aid.  S. 601 will help improve our maritime infrastructure and keep pace with our international competitors.  I urge you to vote in favor of this important legislation.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

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TTD Opposes Inclusion of Maritime, Air Traffic Rights and Services in TTIP

Ms. Yvonne Jamison
Office of the United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC  20508

RE: Request for Comments on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
Docket No. USTR-2013-07430

Dear Ms. Jamison,

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) appreciates the opportunity to submit its views on the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the United States and the European Union.  TTD has previously submitted comments during the United States European Union High Level Dialogue process, and I gave an oral presentation of TTD’s views at the US-EU High Level Regulatory Cooperation Forum on April 11, 2013.  TTD’s comments today will reflect those previously stated positions.

We understand that the EU has asked that the ownership and control rules that pertain to airlines, the right of the carriers of two sides to operate in each other’s domestic markets (“cabotage operations”), and maritime transport services be included as topics in the TTIP negotiations.  For the purposes of air transport services, TTD’s comments here are limited to whether or not air traffic rights and services directly related to those rights should be included in TTIP.  TTD strongly believes that they should not.  Likewise, TTD believes that maritime transport services and U.S. maritime laws such as the Jones Act should not be included in these negotiations.

Air transport services have historically been excluded from general trade agreements such as GATS and bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements.  Rather, such services have been subject to a separate administrative regime, under which the U.S. has negotiated air service specific agreements with foreign countries.  These negotiations have been led by the Department of State and the Department of Transportation, two agencies with dedicated experts on air transport services.  This regime has led to the steady and dramatic removal of barriers to trade in the air transport services sector and since 1993 the U.S. has entered into “open skies” agreements with 107 countries – agreements that have eliminated virtually all restrictions on the ability of carriers to select routes, to establish frequencies and to set prices.

The U.S. and the EU have recently entered into such an open skies Agreement (“Agreement”).  During the comprehensive discussions that resulted in the Agreement, the EU sought the exchange of cabotage rights and the elimination of restrictions on the ownership and control of airlines by the nationals of the parties.  In fact, it is fair to say that consideration of altering the ownership and control rules was one of the central topics in the negotiations.  Ultimately, the Agreement left in place the restrictions on cabotage.  With respect to ownership and control, the Agreement left in place the statutory restrictions but did establish a Joint Committee (consisting of representatives of the two sides) that meets on a regular basis and is tasked, among other things, with considering possible ways of enhancing the access of U.S. and EU airlines to global capital markets.

In TTD’s view the existing administrative framework has been successful in opening markets and liberalizing trade in air transport services while at the same time taking into account the legitimate concerns of airline labor.  The regime has also created an open market environment that has permitted the airlines of the two sides to receive antitrust immunity for ever-deeper alliance arrangements.  Almost all major U.S. and EU passenger airlines are now members of immunized alliances that permit them to operate as virtually single entities in the international markets that are covered by the immunity grants.  Additionally, the Agreement contains provisions that recognize the value of “high labour standards” and establishes a mechanism for considering and addressing adverse effects on airline workers that may result.

While restrictions on cabotage and on ownership and control remain, there are good reasons for this.  With respect to cabotage, the operation of foreign airlines in U.S. domestic markets would be at odds with a host of U.S. laws, including visa and labor laws.  It would also be inconsistent with the treatment of other business sectors.  For example, if a foreign automobile company wishes to set up a manufacturing operation in the U.S., that facility and its workforce are subject to U.S. laws and regulations.  Granting cabotage rights to EU airlines, however, would allow these airlines to operate in the U.S. domestic market with a workforce that remains technically based in their home country and subject to that country’s laws.  This would allow the airlines to bypass U.S. laws and displace U.S. aviation employees.  Additionally, given that the U.S. represents about half of the world’s aviation market, it is unreasonable to argue that opening the U.S. domestic point-to-point market to foreign carriers would represent an even exchange of benefits with our EU trading partners.

The request to eliminate the ownership and control restrictions raises its own set of difficult issues.  If an EU airline were able to own a U.S. airline, it would be able to place the air crew of the U.S. carrier in competition with the air crew of the EU airline for the international routes flown by the previously U.S-owned carriers.  If the foreign owner sought to eliminate U.S. jobs and move this work to a foreign crew, it is unlikely that U.S. labor laws would provide an adequate remedy or protection for these workers.  This is a very real threat, and the consequences of a similar arrangement are currently being felt by aviation workers in Europe where several airlines have taken advantage of the lack of a comprehensive labor law in the European common aviation area to undermine the ability of European flight crews to bargain over the flying done by their companies.  We would be happy to provide specific examples of these actions if you wish to consider the issue in more depth.

Changes to our ownership and control laws would have a negative impact on U.S. aircraft maintenance workers as well.  If foreign carriers are allowed to take over U.S. airlines, the practice of outsourcing aircraft maintenance to foreign countries will only accelerate.  This is already a major problem that has cost thousands of skilled U.S. jobs and lowered safety standards.  And while there is currently a congressionally mandated moratorium on certifying new foreign repair stations, we are still awaiting long overdue security rules governing contract repair stations and drug and alcohol testing at foreign repair stations.  Any actions that would further promote the outsourcing of aircraft maintenance work, particularly without adequate rules governing the oversight of these foreign repair stations, should be rejected by this administration.  The U.S. government should be pursuing market-opening aviation trade opportunities that create and sustain U.S. jobs both in the air and on the ground, not those that leave the future of U.S. aviation to foreign carriers (and their respective governments) that may have different economic agendas.

In addition to the problems that relaxing foreign ownership and control rules would cause for our domestic aviation workforce, this proposal would strain our government’s ability to mandate and enforce critical security standards.  With a foreign interest so integrally involved in controlling the operations of a U.S. air carrier, it would be impossible to assert U.S. security interests.  Moreover, the ability of our government to manage the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program, which assures U.S. air carrier capacity for our military’s air transport needs during wars and conflicts, would be undermined.  Under relaxed foreign ownership and control rules we question how a foreign executive that controls the commercial aspects of a U.S. carrier but does not support our military strategy would be compelled to provide CRAF air transport services during a war or conflict.

Finally, we would note that the Bush Administration in 2005 proposed a rule change to allow foreign entities to exercise actual control over U.S. airlines.  This proposal was subject to fierce opposition in Congress and eventually had to be withdrawn by the Administration.  It is clear that there remains little support in Congress for changing our current ownership and control standards at the demand of an international trading partner when there is no identifiable benefit to U.S. interests.

The same principles noted above apply to any consideration of U.S. maritime transport laws and policies.  The Jones Act has been a successful part of our nation’s national security and economic policy since 1922, and serves a critical economic role for our nation, sustaining over 500,000 good-paying American jobs and generating $100 billion in total annual economic output.  This law has ensured that the U.S. continues to have a reliable source of domestically built ships and competent American crews to operate them.  Overall, the U.S.-flag maritime industry has played a vital role in supporting our armed forces, our trade objectives, food and other aid to other countries, and our national security.  We should be promoting the growth of the U.S. merchant marine, not pursuing changes in our maritime policies through trade negotiations that weaken this vital segment of our transportation system.

Any limitation of the Jones Act would harm American mariners, increase the unemployment rate, accelerate the decline of U.S.-flag operators and seriously damage our economic recovery and national security.  This would also permit foreign entities that do not employ U.S. workers and do not pay taxes to our treasury to operate with impunity on our inland waterways and along our coasts.  Any efforts to include maritime transport services in these negotiations or to otherwise weaken or infringe upon the Jones Act should be rejected by U.S. negotiators.

TTD looks forward to working with the U.S. Government as it considers how to proceed with respect to the proposed TTIP.  Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Sincerely,

Edward Wytkind
President

cc: Susan Kurland,
Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, DOT
Paul Gretch, Director, Office of International Aviation, DOT
Kris Urs, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation Affairs, DOS

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TTD to House Panel: Serious Proposals Needed to Establish a 21st Century Freight Network

 WRITTEN STATEMENT OF
EDWARD WYTKIND, PRESIDENT
TRANSPORTATION TRADES DEPARTMENT, AFL-CIO
________________________________________________

 BEFORE THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE PANEL ON 21ST CENTURY FREIGHT
TRANSPORTATION HEARING
ON
“OVERVIEW OF THE UNITED STATES’ FREIGHT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM”

 April 24, 2013

Chairman Duncan, Congressman Nadler, and members of the Panel on 21st Century Freight Infrastructure, thank you for the opportunity to testify today on the importance of freight transportation.

As the President of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am honored to speak on behalf of workers who make freight transportation possible.  By way of background, TTD consists of 33 affiliated unions that represent workers in every mode of transportation including those engaged in the movement of freight.[1]  Without transportation workers, goods would travel only as far as consumers would be willing to drive, imports and exports would never arrive at or leave our docks, and raw materials needed by our manufacturing sector would never be received.  As a result, the abundance of choices available to today’s American consumers and businesses would dwindle, jobs would be slashed and our nation’s presence as the leading force on the global field would vanish.

But through the work of the members we are proud to represent, the movement of freight becomes a reality.  And because these workers have secured the benefits of collective bargaining, they earn a middle-class living, with good health care, retirement and other benefits, workplace safety protections, and an important level of job security for them and their families.  These good jobs in turn support communities across the nation and drive our economy.

These members include many of the approximately 170,000 Americans who operate and maintain the freight railroad network, signal systems and equipment while transporting over a billion tons of cargo each year.

TTD unions also represent tens of thousands of maritime, longshore and warehouse workers employed on vessels that transport our freight and at docks in Hawaii, Alaska, the Great Lakes, major U.S. rivers, and along the East, West and Gulf coasts where they unload cargo.  These workers play a vital role in the ability of the U.S. to export and import goods that fuel the world’s most powerful economy.

Additionally, we represent virtually all aviation unions whose members operate, maintain and support air carrier operations – both the all-cargo carriers and the commercial passenger carriers that combined carry millions of tons of freight domestically and across the globe.  So when you think of the nation’s aviation employees – both air carrier employees and the men and women who work in and maintain our air traffic control system – they play a vital role in our complex freight transportation network.

Taken together, freight transportation workers helped move an estimated 12.5 billion tons of freight valued at more than $11.6 trillion in 2007.  Compared to 10 years prior, this data reflect an increase of 13% in freight weight and 68% in freight value.  Notably, the Department of Transportation projected that our national freight tonnage will increase almost 70% by 2020 with some freight gateways experiencing a tripling of freight volumes.  This projected growth in freight volume will require leadership in Washington if we’re serious about making sure our transportation infrastructure can keep pace.

We all know the facts.  Our infrastructure is currently in a deplorable state of disrepair.  In the World Economic Forum’s 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Report the U.S. ranked 25th in the world on the quality of its overall infrastructure.  The fact that the world’s strongest economy must function with an infrastructure that barely cracks the top 25 should worry government and business leaders.  The 2013 report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) says it all.  Our infrastructure received a cumulative grade of D+.  ASCE rated our ports a ‘C’, our railroads ‘C+’, our roads ‘D’, and our aviation system a ‘D’, finding that underinvestment and deferred maintenance are undermining the state of our infrastructure.

Our economic strength is intrinsically linked to the condition of our transportation infrastructure.  When channels are too shallow to receive large vessels, or railroads are located miles away from ports, unnecessary delays and congestion cause the flow of commerce to slow and cost our economy billions.  As a result, our ability to compete in the international market and meet President Obama’s goal of doubling exports by 2015 is undermined.  Thus, the national discussion about the state of our freight transportation system isn’t just another transportation policy debate; it’s about providing American businesses the infrastructure they need to distribute their products to the rest of the world and ensuring the U.S. remains a dominant force in the global marketplace.

Fortunately, we have the opportunity to reverse years of underinvestment and neglect.  There are plenty of good ideas that, if implemented will produce the resources needed to support a transportation network that reaches its potential, can keep pace with an expanding economy and is safe and efficient.  What is missing is the political will to invest in such a system.  While the private sector has a vital and necessary role to play in investing in our freight transport system, the government simply cannot abdicate its responsibility to properly fund this sector of our transportation system across all modes.

We can start by spending the money we take in each year through the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT).  As this Committee knows, these funds are collected for the purpose of improving a vital link in our freight system: our ports and navigation channels.  The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that 95% of our international trade travels through our ports, yet ASCE estimates that between now and 2020, our ports and inland waterways will require $30 billion of investments to meet their growing needs.  This comes just as the expansion of the Panama Canal is approaching, when vessels and ships are increasing their size and trade volume at ports is expected to double.  Many of our channels are already too shallow to allow vessels to pass through, and this problem will only worsen with the emergence of mega-vessels carrying heavier loads.

The $7 billion that has been accumulated and is sitting in the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund should be invested in our ports to accommodate for the Panama Canal expansion and the realities of today’s vessels.  TTD is encouraged by this Committee’s bipartisan interest, support and discussions regarding a Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) bill and specifically, HMT funding reform.  We urge the Committee to work with the Senate and send a bill to the President that finally unlocks the HMT funds that are held hostage at the expense of the port/maritime sector and our economy.

Congress must also tackle the surface transportation funding crisis.  As this Committee knows and as transportation labor has testified before, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) spends $15 billion more than it receives each year and may become insolvent after Fiscal Year 2014.  The demands on the HTF are tall, yet its funding source, the gasoline and diesel fuel tax, hasn’t been increased since 1993 and its buying power has fallen 33%.  The threat of insolvency must be addressed – the most straightforward way to do so is by increasing the gas tax and indexing it to inflation.  It is time for our political leaders to tell the truth to Americans and businesses: unless we increase revenues flowing into the collapsing HTF – yes by raising the federal fuel user fee – our highways, bridges and public transit systems will fail us and our economy will crater.

We also recognize that as vehicles become more fuel efficient and the public increasingly drives alternative fuel vehicles, other revenue sources must be identified as well.  We’ve supported other funding mechanisms to complement the gas tax, and we’d be interested in talking to the Committee and others regarding different options.[2]

It comes as a shock to no one that our surface transportation infrastructure is failing our economy.  Everyone here understands that there are viable funding solutions that will allow our country to boost investments and create hundreds of thousands of jobs along the way. However, there is a profound lack of political will in Washington to actually propose methods of addressing the funding shortfall.  While we appreciate the strong message from lawmakers (many of whom serve on this Committee) about modernizing and expanding our transportation system, America needs real, viable funding options to be put on the table and enacted.

The tepid support found in the just unveiled Gallup Poll for raising the federal fuel tax and dedicating the funds for roads, bridges and mass transit should worry those on this Committee attempting to lead a national debate about the importance of investing in our failing transportation system.  While data show that a majority of state transportation revenue initiatives are passing, this poll demonstrates that we are failing to paint an honest picture for the American people on the severe impact to our economy of continuing to neglect our severely aging infrastructure.

Enhancing funding for surface transportation programs will also support vital intermodal projects.  As I mentioned earlier, we represent workers employed in an array of components and subcomponents of the freight transportation system.  We understand better than most that in order for the U.S. to remain competitive, we need a robust, integrated system that connects ports, railroads and roads with each other and with cargo-carrying aircraft.  Investing in intermodal facilities will connect the modes, reduce congestion, and decrease shipping time, which help make products more affordable to consumers and facilitate domestic and international trade.  Congress must ensure that the needs of these facilities are considered as the expansion of freight transportation is debated and as legislation is crafted.

With regard to our aviation system, the FAA is in the midst of transforming our decades-old radar-based air traffic control system to a modernized satellite-based system that will employ new technologies to increase efficiency, expand capacity, reduce congestion and enhance safety.  The air transport of freight, on both cargo and passenger aircraft, will benefit from the cost savings and capacity enhancements resulting from NextGen, allowing consumers and businesses to save as well.  But unless Congress commits to appropriating the funds needed to fully implement this modernized air traffic system, freight transportation will suffer as well.  The model used today – subjecting air traffic control modernization to funding fits and starts – isn’t serving our nation’s economic interests and is slowing progress on this vital initiative.

It is clear that greater federal investment is needed throughout our freight infrastructure systems to help our economy grow and prosper.  Further, it is critical that we maximize the domestic economic impact of these investments by including strong Buy America provisions in any legislation authorizing the construction and maintenance of freight infrastructure.  The application of and strong adherence to Buy America laws helps ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent here at home rather than sent overseas.  The use of American-made steel, other raw materials and manufactured goods in any infrastructure investment serves as an economic multiplier by creating and sustaining American manufacturing jobs.

The role of the private sector in project delivery will undoubtedly be debated.  We acknowledge that long-term transportation projects may require innovative financing and we understand that expanding the use of public-private partnerships (PPPs) may be proposed.  The fact is that the private sector has always played a robust role in our transportation system and will continue to do so.

TTD continues to believe that PPPs have a finite role to play in the delivery of transportation projects, as PPPs cannot provide the revenue streams necessary to finance a national, intermodal transportation system.  In other words, if we fail to solve the significant public funding issues, there will be limited opportunity to attract the private investment needed to execute more PPPs.  I hear this point all the time from the private capital professionals: in order for private investors to come to the table, the dysfunctional federal policy regime that is failing to provide a reliable federal funding stream must be reversed.

As Congress considers the role of PPPs, we will make the case for rigorous initial cost-benefit analyses and clear accountability for the cost and quality of the work performed.  Further, longstanding worker protections must be applied and rules that safeguard the rights of workers must be honored.  PPPs and innovative financing measures cannot be used as a mechanism to eliminate collective bargaining rights or worker protections as part of a business model to increase profits at the expense of workers.  If that is indeed the path that is taken, we will oppose those efforts and the political support for these types of projects and funding options will be fractured and weakened.

I would be remiss not to discuss the severe impact that sequestration is having on the transportation system and specifically on our freight network.  Earlier this week, furloughs took effect for virtually every employee of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the delays and uncertainty that are plaguing air travel is massive and growing.  While passengers are the most visible victims of these cuts, we know that air cargo will suffer from delays as well jeopardizing this important segment of our freight system.  We also have to realize that we cannot responsibly talk about enhanced investments in freight transportation while allowing sequestration to arbitrarily cut vital programs across the board.  Instead of continuing to play the blame game and point fingers at each other, Congress and the Administration need to work together to solve this problem, put FAA workers back on the job and stop the funding cuts before more harm is done to our country.

It is impossible to have a discussion on the role of our freight transportation system without acknowledging that there are a number of pending policy issues outside the funding challenges already noted that have a direct impact on this sector’s ability to move cargo efficiently and safely.

For example, a viable U.S. maritime presence cannot be sustained without strong cargo preference laws that ensure U.S. cargo is transported on U.S. flag vessels.  I must note that this law was weakened for U.S. food aid transports in the recently completed MAP-21 reauthorization – a law that previously had little to do with maritime commerce.[3]  TTD and our affiliates are working to reverse this misguided departure from our cargo preference laws and to ensure that changes proposed for this program by the Obama Administration are not enacted.

There are also a number of freight rail safety issues that will be considered by this Committee as part of any reauthorization of the Rail Safety Improvement Act.  Chronic fatigue issues left unresolved by the last law must be addressed, positive train control needs to be implemented, and we will oppose efforts to allow larger and heavier trucks on our nation’s highways.  We agree with the freight rail carriers that repealing certain antitrust rules for the industry would be a mistake as would new unfair economic regulatory requirements.  These changes would harm the wages and jobs of workers employed in this industry and make it more difficult for rail carriers to invest in the infrastructure improvements sorely needed to improve freight transportation.

On the aviation side, we are committed to extending to pilots in the all-cargo sector the new fatigue rules that cover passenger carriers.  We strongly objected to the Obama Administration’s decision to completely exempt cargo pilots from the new regulations. Despite claims to the contrary, pilots who fly for cargo carriers suffer from the same fatigue issues as commercial passenger pilots and share the same air space.  They should therefore be covered by the same fatigue rules.  We support legislation introduced by Reps. Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Tim Bishop (D-NY) to close this regulatory loophole and we urge the Committee to consider and pass this legislation that improves the safety of this important sector of the freight transportation system.

We commend the Committee and Congress for the work you’ve done so far in placing greater priority on establishing a comprehensive freight system, and in particular for the freight provisions included in MAP-21 which will change the way we address freight transportation at the national and state levels.  Among other freight-related requirements, MAP-21 called for the development of a national freight policy, national freight network, national freight strategic plan, and state freight advisory committees, which will produce a comprehensive approach to freight transport.  By establishing and pursuing national freight goals, we can build a system that integrates our freight needs with states’ needs and capabilities.  In doing so, Congress established freight as an important aspect of our transportation system, and we applaud Congress for its work.

We also applaud the Administration for aggressively implementing the freight provisions of MAP-21.  In February, the Administration announced the process for designating the national freight network and identified milestones for future progress.  Additionally, the Administration created the National Freight Advisory Committee to advise the Secretary of Transportation on issues relating to freight transportation planning and the implementation of the new freight provisions included in MAP-21.  We believe this Advisory Committee is an important step in the Department of Transportation’s efforts to develop an integrated, comprehensive approach to freight movement, and transportation labor looks forward to participating in its deliberations.

We are pleased to support this Committee’s work to develop a comprehensive freight transportation policy framework.  We share your view that without a renewed focus on freight transportation and the investments that are clearly needed, we will be missing the opportunity to boost America’s competitiveness, create middle-class jobs that still elude too many Americans, and modernize the way our companies and people compete in the global economy.

We appreciate the opportunity to testify today and look forward to participating in the Panel’s efforts to address the needs of the 21st century freight transportation system.  Thank you.

[1] A complete list of TTD affiliates is attached.

[2] Attached is our 2013 Policy Statement “Options for Avoiding the Highway Trust Fund Cliff” that was adopted by the TTD Executive Committee in February 2013.  It provides further detail on TTD’s call on Congress to fix the HTF.

[3] Attached is our 2013 Policy Statement “Reforms to Strengthen U.S. Maritime Cargo Preference Laws” that was adopted by the TTD Executive Committee in February 2013.  It provides further detail on TTD’s call for strong cargo preference protections.

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House Urged to Reject Bill That Would Essentially Shut Down the National Labor Relations Board

April 5, 2013

Vote No on H.R. 1120


Dear Representative:


On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, I urge you to vote against H.R. 1120 – legislation that will essentially shut down the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  This bill improperly involves Congress in the judicial review of the President’s recess appointment powers and in the process prevents the NLRB from fulfilling its statutory mandate to “protect the legitimate rights of both employees and employers in their relations affecting commerce.”

H.R. 1120, by the author’s own admission, is designed to support a recent Court of Appeals decision (Noel Canning) that calls into question the validity of President Obama’s recess appointments to the NLRB.  The court would limit recess appointments to those made only in the recess between sessions of Congress and only for those vacancies that become open during the recess.  Under the reasoning in Noel Canning, the President of the United States, for example, could not use the recess appointment clause to fill a vacancy during an August recess no matter when the vacancy occurred.  This narrow reading of the recess appointment clause is contrary to the common and recent use of the provision by presidents of both parties and is inconsistent with a 11th Circuit case upholding the recess appointment of Judge William Pryor made by President George W. Bush.  Other cases challenging the NLRB recess appointments are pending in other circuits and it is likely that these cases will produce results contrary to the decision in Noel Canning.

At best, it remains an open question whether Noel Canning’s unprecedented interpretation of the recess appointment clause will stand.  Instead of waiting for the Supreme Court to settle the matter, H.R. 1120 steps in and prevents the Board from implementing or enforcing any decision, vote or other action that requires a quorum.  Even if all three current NLRB members participate or even agree on a course of action, H.R. 1120 would prevent the Board from acting.  While one can disagree with a specific rule or action of the NLRB, prohibiting the agency from conducting business at all, based on an action that has nothing to do with a Board decision, exposes the true motive behind this legislation.

While the NLRB enforces the rights of workers to form unions and bargain collectively, it also protects businesses and the public by providing for the orderly resolution of labor-management disputes and protects the free flow of commerce.  H.R. 1120 would remove these protections and even reaches back to retroactively apply the prohibition against Board action to January 4, 2012.  H.R. 1120 deprives both labor and business of remedies under the law, undermines the basic rights of workers and creates a level of uncertainty and confusion in labor relations that is unacceptable.

I urge you to vote against H.R. 1120 when it is brought to the House floor.


Sincerely,

 

Edward Wytkind
President

 PDF Version

Bankruptcy Should Not Be a License to Steal

UMWA Public pressure is mounting on yet another company — Patriot Coal — attempting to hide behind federal bankruptcy law to strip health care and pensions from more than 20,000 workers and retirees. But more must be done to keep the heat on before another corporation breaks its promises.

That is exactly what up to 10,000 union members and supporters were doing earlier this week when they marched on Patriot Coal headquarters in Charleston, W.Va., to protest the company’s move to cut employee retirement and health care.  Leading the way was United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts who, along with 15 others, were arrested for civil disobedience.

But we cannot let the UMWA stand in this fight alone.  This goes far beyond the hills of West Virginia, and impacts more than just union coal miners.  This was even evidenced yesterday when Patriot asked a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in St. Louis to cap the life insurance benefits if its non-union retirees, and dispose of all life insurance for active non-union employees.

Bankruptcy was designed to help individuals and companies in times of great difficulty. Bankruptcy should not be a license to steal, or a green light for lawyers to cook up schemes that enrich a select few by robbing a great many.

A growing number of elected officials, thankfully, are taking a public stand on the side of workers and retirees – and against destructive corporate greed.  In recent weeks U.S. senators Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV), and West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin have all condemned Patriot’s actions, as did AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who spoke at the rally.

As we’ve written about before, this company was formed when Peabody Energy and Arch Coal merged for the sole purpose of triggering a self-serving bankruptcy.  This shell game produced a new company – offensively named Patriot – that is asking a bankruptcy judge to throw out its contract with the United Mine Workers of America.  Earlier this year the 33 unions of the TTD Executive Committee stood together to condemn Patriot’s shameful, arrogant agenda.

I’ve always been moved by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Patriot Coal is a poster child for corporate greed and arrogance.  We cannot remain silent.  We cannot let them win.

In times this tough, and in the face of injustice this grave, workers and public officials everywhere must take a stand.  Please take action today to support the UMWA in its Fairness at Patriot campaign.

 

Transportation Doesn’t Take Weekends Off

I encourage transportation workers everywhere to support the National Association of Letter Carriers this Sunday for its Day of Action to educate and mobilize Americans in support of continuing six-day mail delivery from the U.S. Postal Service (USPS).

Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe’s reckless, unilateral move to end Saturday delivery will disproportionately harm those who need it the most – our nation’s poor, elderly, disabled, and those in rural areas.  It will hurt small business, cut jobs, and send the USPS on a severe downward spiral.

Transportation workers can see disturbing parallels as yet another great American institution seeks to fix its financial problems by cutting service to those most in need and eliminating  thousands of jobs in the process.  Just a few examples: critics of Amtrak want to eliminate parts of our national passenger rail network because they don’t turn a profit; local transit agencies are experiencing record ridership levels, yet cutting service because of a broken funding mechanism; and federal support for rural air service is attacked as government waste even though the program provides essential air transportation to communities that have few options.

Hiding behind fuzzy math and flawed logic, the USPS says it has no choice but to cut Saturday delivery.  But it does not have to be this way. In 2006 Congress ordered that the USPS fund, in advance, most retiree health benefits for the next 75 years.  No other agency or company operates this way, and this mandate has accounted for 85 percent of USPS losses since 2007.  If the more than 90 percent of letter carriers who belong to the NALC say we should change this pre-funded benefit arrangement and leave Saturday delivery alone, perhaps the Postmaster General should listen. And in fact, all unions at the USPS have announced opposition to the Donahoe plan.

Call me old school, but I still believe that we are one nation that should be united by certain core public services.  Whether it is passenger rail and mass transit, interstate highways, air traffic control or postal delivery, our nation can be strengthened and better linked by a sustained investment in modern and efficient institutions and services that link us as a nation.  When I think about who would be harmed most by cold-hearted cuts to the USPS, I hear the ghosts of Mitt Romney’s shameful dismissal of 47 percent of Americans.

We’ve all seen the disastrous consequences for customer service and our economy when once-proud pillars of our transportation industry are weakened by poor leaders who make all the wrong choices and cut all the wrong corners.  Let’s not let that happen at the postal service and join the NALC in saying no to this wrongheaded and illegal plan.

National Journal—Buying American is So American

[As posted by Ed Wytkind in the National Journal]

What’s so complicated about spending American taxpayer dollars to put Americans to work? That’s the motivation behind our endorsement of policies that condition America’s investment in new streetcars, buses and rail cars on making those products here in America.

Seriously, is there a poll that says we should spend the hard-earned tax dollars of Americans to create a pipeline of transportation manufacturing jobs offshore? Of course there isn’t. But there are plenty of politicians and foreign lobbyists who do a nice job bottling up legislation to beef up our Buy America policies.

We are at a crucial moment in time. We know from the report card issued today by the American Society of Civil Engineers that our nation’s transportation system gets a grade of D+. That means – even if we have to drag many politicians kicking and screaming – that we need to shovel hundreds of billions of dollars into our transit and rail systems, airports and air traffic control, roads and bridges, and our ports and navigation channels.

How does all this connect back to Buy America policies? Well, we have reached a “duh” moment. As we invest billions to fix and upgrade our transportation system we will also be replacing rail cars and buses, some of which were built when getting a man on the moon was still a dream. We either buy replacement equipment made by Americans employed in middle-class jobs, or we don’t. The choice is that simple.

That’s why we’ve endorsed the Invest in American Jobs bill, introduced earlier this month by Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.). Its goal is pretty simple: to make this the generation that offers the most modern transportation system in the world using the most modern equipment manufactured here in America. China’s long-term plan to compete in the global economy doesn’t contemplate putting Americans to work – it contemplates dominating markets and putting the Chinese people to work. We might want to stop using their playbook.

The Buy America requirements currently in place are fraught with loopholes and low thresholds for the percentage of materials manufactured in the U.S. used in federally funded transportation projects. Yes, you’ll be shocked to learn that our Buy America laws have loopholes through which lawyers drive routinely on behalf of their clients. The Rahall bill tries to shut the door on those loopholes.

For instance, under current standards, manufacturers of buses and rail cars funded by federal dollars can get the Buy America stamp of approval with as little as 36 percent of the vehicle’s cost coming from components manufactured in the U.S. While under current Buy America rules, the actual requirement for American-made components in rolling stock is 60 percent of the vehicle’s total cost, each of those “American-made” components can comprise up to 40 percent of its cost in foreign-made parts and materials. Am I claiming that foreign interests game our Buy America rules? You bet, and the Rahall bill would end this charade.

The next time you are around an elected official tell him or her that reforming our transportation Buy America rules is so American.

 

Ryan Budget Puts Economic Recovery, Nation’s Mobility at Severe Risk

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on the House Republican budget unveiled by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI):

“There is no question that the Ryan Budget plan released today would devastate our transportation system and destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs in the process while locking in a friendly tax code for the super-rich for the next decade. We reject this misguided approach. While funding levels for specific programs were not released today, we know the plan targets transportation investments for cuts at a time when our economy is in desperate need of job-creating proposals and our transportation system suffers from chronic neglect, record congestion and failing infrastructure.

“The budget outline embraces a view rejected by members of both parties: that the job-creating characteristics of transit, highway and other transportation investments have somehow been ‘oversold.’ Rep. Ryan should tell that to governors and mayors struggling to create jobs or to transportation and construction workers who are working today because of responsible federal investments that would be slashed or eliminated under this proposal. Ryan’s zeal for eliminating high-speed rail is both short-sighted and appears based entirely on a political axe to grind with the current occupant of the White House. And his plan to hollow out investments in our freight and passenger transportation systems should worry businesses trying to compete in a global economy. This is not how we should make transportation policy or investment decisions.

“This bill also slashes our federal workforce by 10 percent over the next two years – workers who both operate and maintain transportation systems on the ground, and who keep our skies safe. If this is Rep. Ryan’s vision for America’s transportation future and economy, we say ‘no thanks’ and will work to defeat it.”

CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395.2195

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TTD Addresses FRA’s Proposed Changes to Positive Train Control Regulations

Mr. Thomas McFarlin
Office of Safety Assurance and Compliance
Signal & Train Control Division
Federal Railroad Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

RE:     Federal Railroad Administration
           Positive Train Control Systems (RRR)
           Docket No. FRA-2011-0061, Notice No. 1
           RIN 2130-AC32
           Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Dear Mr. McFarlin:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I write to comment on the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) regarding its regulations governing the implementation of positive train control (PTC).  In addition to offering our own comments, TTD endorses those jointly filed by several of our affiliates, including Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART – Transportation Division), Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS) and American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA). [1] 

In response to the FRA’s January 2010 final rule and subsequent amendments issued later that year, AAR petitioned the FRA to amend certain portions of its regulations governing the implementation of PTC on certain passenger and freight rail lines.  Following AAR’s petition, the FRA issued an NPRM on PTC in December 2012 and a clarification of the NPRM in January 2013.  Of those issues that FRA addressed in its NPRM, there are some that we support and others we oppose.  Those provisions are laid out below.

With regards to the changes in 49 CFR section 234.207, we support FRA’s efforts to ensure that when any essential component of a highway-rail grade crossing warning systems malfunctions, they are corrected quickly and without delay.  We also support the proposed changes to sections 234.213 and 236.2 that reflect the use of microprocessor-based technology in highway-rail grade crossing warning systems. 

We believe that the changes made to the Timetable Instructions in section 236.15 would make it easier for workers to identify whether the area in which they work is PTC territory.  This change will help workers properly operate trains and provide appropriate track protection.  Additionally, we approve of the FRA’s decision not to allow automatic approval of the removal of signal systems under section 236.1021.  We oppose such a process for underlying systems upon which PTC overlay systems rely. 

Moreover, TTD supports the FRA’s change to one of the qualifying criteria of the de minimis exception in section 236.1005.  This change would allow track segments over which 200 carloads of empty or residue carloads travel annually to meet one of the five criteria in determining whether the rail segment poses a negligible risk of release of PIH materials.  We also support some leeway to the de minimis exception in section 236.1006 for non-equipped locomotives performing yard operations over mainline track.

TTD and our affiliates have a long record of supporting improvements to rail safety.  We supported Congress when it enacted the PTC requirements in 2008 and continue to support the FRA in its implementation of the congressional mandate.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on this important rail safety issue, and urge the agency to move forward with swift and timely implementation of PTC.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President



[1] A complete list of TTD affiliated unions is attached. By way of background, TTD represents 33 affiliated unions that represent workers in every mode of transportation, including those in rail transportation.
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A Healthy Maritime Industry and Smart Government

There’s plenty of disagreement in Washington over the role of government.  For me, “more or less” isn’t the question.  What interests me is smart government.  Don’t we all want smart policies that keep us strong and competitive?

Maritime cargo preference laws help us do that and they need to be strengthened, not undermined.

Our cargo preference policies were designed decades ago to promote the health of a privately owned U.S.-flag fleet, and the maintenance of a highly trained mariner workforce.  The policies do not apply to the transport of purely private commercial export-import cargoes, but only to U.S. government-generated cargoes.

The strength of a U.S.-fleet is integral to national security.  It serves as a naval auxiliary in times of war or national emergency, and in fact delivered the majority of the material to our early Iraqi missions.  A little known fact:  since 2009, U.S.-flag vessels and U.S. maritime workers have moved more than 90 percent of all cargoes to Afghanistan and Iraq.

But military aid is only part of the story. U.S.-flag vessels also deliver humanitarian aid around the world, including grain and other staples to feed the starving.

Mostly, the system works well, but when the laws are loosely applied or undermined, our cargo can end up on privately owned ships flying foreign flags—and lead to the loss of good middle-class jobs for U.S. mariners, not to mention the hollowing out of our U.S.-flag maritime capacity.

That’s not smart government, and it’s not just hypothetical.

Last year, in the dead of night without input from TTD and its maritime unions or the maritime industry, Republicans in Congress exacerbated the already dangerous slide of our U.S. maritime industry striking at the core of our cargo preference laws.  As a result, the longstanding cargo preference requirements for International Food Aid cargo was cut from 75 percent to 50 percent.

That is neither smart nor fair, and we strongly opposed this maneuver.

In fact, we supported bipartisan legislation introduced later that would have restored the food aid requirement to 75 percent. Despite bipartisan support, that measure stalled but we will push it forward this year.

The White House also bears responsibility to uphold strong cargo preference. As our Executive Committee has asserted, the Administration should commit to fully adhere to the laws and give the Maritime Administration the resources and authority it needs to implement and enforce cargo preference 100 percent of the time, throughout the federal agencies.  Unfortunately, without this stepped up enforcement — and a clear directive from our government — too many cabinet agencies will continue freelancing and setting their own policies.

These reforms are smart. They are not radical nor are they burdensome.

Let’s allow our government to fulfill cargo preference laws in the spirit in which they were written into our laws.  That will be our message to lawmakers and the Administration in the months ahead.

 -@EdWytkind

 

Can We Avoid the ‘Mobility Cliff?’

One of the hazards of using terms like ‘fiscal cliff’ and ‘sequester’ is that we become numb to their true meaning.  But if congressional gridlock prevents us from funding our surface transportation systems, we will go over the mobility cliff.

I challenge anyone in America to hop on a transit bus or in their car and travel more than a couple of miles without seeing the visible – and frightening – signs of a surface transportation infrastructure that is falling apart:  old (often dirty) transit equipment, traffic jams, dangerously deteriorated bridges and highways and empty train platforms caused by service cutbacks and fare hikes.

At the current rate of investment, we will spend $1.1 trillion below what is needed on infrastructure projects between now and 2020 — and it will take almost 80 years to complete the transit projects now on the books.  The World Economic Forum ranks America’s infrastructure 25th in the world, one spot above Qatar; our transportation systems rank even lower.   The collapse of these investment programs will cost our economy more than $3 trillion in lost GDP growth by 2020.  That’s a boat load of lost jobs in an economy still reeling from the Great Recession.

The root of this crisis is simple.  We are trying to run a 2013 transit/highway system on a 1993 budget, because our Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is fed primarily by gas excise taxes that are not indexed to inflation and haven’t been increased in 20 years.  The HTF’s buying power has fallen by 33 percent during those two decades.  It pays out more than it takes in, and will be insolvent by 2015 if Congress does not act.

It’s a ‘mobility cliff,’ if you’ll pardon my jargon, but what can we do?

One solution would be to simply increase the gas tax, index it for inflation and dedicate the revenues to fund surface transportation.  Proposals like this have come and gone, cut down by short-sighted anti-tax zealots who seem to think we can retool and modernize our economy and transportation system with a mix of reckless austerity budgets and fairy dust.

If that trend continues, Congress and the White House could consider ideas like converting from a flat per-gallon rate to a per-dollar percentage – a sales tax.  That will boost revenues.  Longer term, in view of rising fuel efficiency standards, there may need to be a move away from revenue structures based on fuel consumption.  One proposal creates a Vehicle Miles Traveled fee – a so-called VMT – but the large-scale implementation of a VMT is years away.  We don’t have years to wait.

Innovative financing ideas – intended to attract private investment – could help, but they are no substitute for real action to address the underlying crisis facing the HTF.  And any innovative finance measure must apply longstanding worker protections and Buy America requirements to ensure we are using federal investments to support good American middle-class jobs.

During the debate to come, TTD will make the case that a failure to act will cause our economy irreparable harm as the rest of the world out invests us and threatens our status as the world’s leader in the complex and interconnected global system of freight and passenger commerce.

We must stare down those politicians who would happily throw us over this mobility cliff.  We owe it to the American people.  We owe it to our generation and the next to keep the American competitive spirit alive in an economy where success is defined by quality and innovation, not crumbling infrastructure.

-@EdWytkind

 

A Smooth, Safe and Modern Ride

Photo Courtesy of AmtrakFor ordinary, common-sense Americans, the 113th Congress has a lot to prove.  Will our lawmakers finally reject the corrosive politics that values gridlock and inaction over progress, or remain stuck behind those who say any bipartisan agreement for the good of the country is, by definition, a defeat?

When it comes to our passenger rail system, let me ask the question this way: Do we want to create an efficient, integrated system that springs from planning and prudent investment, or shall we continue to limp through this young century, losing ground daily as other countries develop and build cutting-edge transportation systems?

As Congress prepares to deliberate this year over the rewrite of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), we have the opportunity to make things right and finally match our pursuit of a modern economy with a modern transportation system.

With 31 million riders and growing popularity, Amtrak had its best year ever in 2012.  Not bad for a chronically underfunded railroad.  But its physical infrastructure and rolling stock are badly aging due to long periods of underinvestment and neglect.  Meanwhile, Congress no longer debates ways to deploy new federal investments in passenger rail and other transportation needs – Congress actually debates whether we should debate these issues at all.  Something is seriously wrong.

I hope this year’s discussion over Amtrak and passenger rail finally puts to rest the tired idea that the federal role in transportation should be miniscule and that Amtrak should be sold-off, piece by piece, to the wolves.  Our Executive Committee completely rejects  that wrongheaded view.

Yes, we were busy last Congress defeating ideologically driven proposals designed to distract us from implementing national rail policy.  We beat back a privatization agenda that would have ended Amtrak as we know it and decimated thousands of middle class jobs.

Let’s make things right again. We will push the politicians to advance a reauthorized PRIIA that ends the neglect of Amtrak, supports the jobs and rights of its skilled workers, rejects Amtrak-killing privatization proposals, and — for a change — actually gives Americans what they want: a smooth, safe and modern ride.

-@EdWytkind

 

AIN Online—Union Demands More Oversight of Contract Maintenance

[By Robert P. Mark of AIN Online]

According to the Transportation Trades Department (TTD) of the AFL-CIO union, 70 percent of airline maintenance is conducted by outside contractors, and some of the most comprehensive work on transport aircraft “should be conducted only by Part 145 certified repair stations,” according to TTD president Edward Wytkind.

His remarks were part of formal comments submitted to an FAA notice of proposed rulemaking calling for increased surveillance of contract maintenance facilities. WhileTTD supports the overall increased oversight of these stations the FAA is seeking, the proposal still falls short, Wytkind said. The agency should require an air carrier representative to be physically present to observe the work being performed, he added.

“How can anyone argue that outsourced work, much of it performed overseas, does not need to meet the same safety standards as in-house maintenance, or that employees do not need the same level of training and oversight?” Wytkind argued.

Transportation Unions Vow Vigorous Push to End Neglect of Nation’s Transportation System and Infrastructure

Condemn ‘Reckless’ Cuts from Threatened Sequestration

ORLANDO, FL—Transportation union leaders are rolling out a 2013 transportation investment and jobs agenda, staking out an aggressive stance against irresponsible liberalization of aviation trade and condemning damaging cuts to transportation programs and jobs that are threatened by sequestration. The unions also call for the reform of maritime cargo preference laws and pledge support for the battle against human trafficking led by the U.S. departments of Transportation and Homeland Security.

“It is the height of irresponsibility for extremists in Congress to use the sequestration battle to tank our economy and use public and private sector working men and women as pawns in their partisan games,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), following the annual winter meeting of TTD’s 33-member Executive Committee. “It is time for Congress to end this senseless sequestration stalemate and finally start focusing on an agenda to modernize our failing transportation system and create middle-class jobs.”

The TTD Executive Committee was joined yesterday by new House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Bill Shuster (R-PA) who said, “I appreciate today’s opportunity to meet with the Transportation Trades Department’s Executive Committee, and look forward to working with them and all parties interested in a stronger transportation network for our nation. By listening to a diverse set of opinions and working together to build consensus, we can improve America’s infrastructure, make us more competitive, and strengthen our economy.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY), ranking minority member of the Transportation & Infrastructure Water Resources Subcommittee, also joined the meeting and said, “Investments in infrastructure put skilled laborers to work now and lay the foundation for a growing economy in the future. I am proud to partner with TTD in advocating for a 21st Century American transportation network and fighting back against destructive budget cuts like sequestration that will undermine vital programs. I am also proud of my work with TTD to extend [Family and Medical Leave Act] protections to airline flight crews, protect fair wages for transportation workers, and ensure our roads, rails, transit operations, ports and aviation system are safe and well funded for the future.”

The Executive Committee also heard from U.S. Department of Transportation Under Secretary for Policy Polly Trottenberg, who said, “Transportation workers are our partners in safety, who build, operate and maintain the roads, rails and runways that every American depends on. The Obama Administration will continue investing in good transportation projects that keep our economy and the traveling public moving forward.”
The Executive Committee adopted several policy statements during the meeting that offer detailed, substantive policy prescriptions on behalf of the workers who operate, maintain and build the world’s largest transportation network.

On the eve of possible federal spending cuts due to sequestration, the Executive Committee condemned threatened draconian cuts to vital transportation programs that form the backbone of our system of commerce.  The “ravages of sequestration,” they said, must be avoided and federal workers “should not be made scapegoats” in this dangerous political game.

To end the stalemate on long-term investments in public transit and highways, transportation unions offer a bipartisan solution to the “broken and outdated funding system,” noting that the purchasing power of these funds has fallen 33 percent in two decades.  TTD affiliates support an increase in the gas tax indexed to inflation, as well as possibly replacing the current excise tax with a sales tax.

On the globalization of aviation, TTD opposes the European Union’s push to hollow out U.S. airline ownership and control laws, and impose its heavy-handed agenda in talks with the U.S. and in the upcoming meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

As for a long-term plan for Amtrak, TTD laments, “Too many politicians fail to understand the enormous economic benefits of modernizing passenger and freight rail.” Transportation unions will push for a long-term funding plan for Amtrak and oppose “risky” privatization schemes.

Transportation union leaders also vow to preserve a strong maritime industry. TTD unions sharply criticize congressional action to weaken cargo preference laws that ensure most federal government-generated cargo travels on U.S.-flagged ships crewed by U.S. maritime workers.

TTD affiliates will also join the battle to stop the use of “our own transportation system” as a “haven for predatory criminals” that engage in human trafficking.

The affiliates of TTD also pledge their support for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) campaign against the sinister efforts of Patriot Coal, Peabody Energy and Arch Coal to exploit our bankruptcy code at the expense of “hard-working mine workers, retirees, and their families.”

CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262 or 703.395.2195

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Transportation Unions Reject EU’s Aviation Trade Liberalization Agenda

  Oppose Expansion of ICAO Mandate

ORLANDO, FL—Transportation unions staked out their opposition to continuing attempts by the EU and others to “loosen” U.S. airline ownership and control rules, and rejected the “shockingly ambitious” agenda of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to expand its policy mandate.

“We have rolled out a clear vision on how our government should and shouldn’t expand U.S. aviation trade opportunities,” said Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind, after convening the winter meeting of the organization’s Executive Committee.  “We are opposed to the EU’s unrelenting attempts to use trade talks with the U.S. for the purpose of forcing damaging reforms to our airline foreign ownership and control rules.”

In a policy statement TTD member unions urged the Obama Administration to continue to reject EU overtures on airline foreign investment reforms, whether they surface during U.S.-EU trade talks on a free trade agreement or in the multilateral setting of an International Services Agreement being negotiated by our government and more than 20 nations.  Transportation union leaders also pushed back attempts by the ICAO Secretariat to expand the organization’s mission into the economic regulatory arena.

“ICAO’s attempts to position itself as a stalking horse for the liberalization of foreign ownership and control rules and the privatization of air traffic control systems should be rejected,” Wytkind added.

The Executive Committee urged the U.S. government to continue its pursuit of only those market-opening aviation trade initiatives that “have a positive impact on the jobs and wages” of U.S. aviation workers. “Decades of unfair trade policy have ravaged workers in many U.S. industries, and we are committed to ensuring that liberalized aviation trade does not have the same result for U.S. aviation employees,” the TTD statement said.

 

CONTACT: Jennifer Michels, Jmichels@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395-2195

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TTD: Maritime Cargo Preference Laws Must be Strengthened

ORLANDO, FL—Transportation unions vowed to protect and create U.S. maritime jobs by strengthening enforcement of cargo preference laws and reversing recent congressional action that undermined these longstanding requirements.

Meeting this week, the Executive Committee of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) criticized legislation adopted in 2012, as part of an 11th hour deal on a surface transportation reauthorization bill, that lowered the percentage of U.S. international food aid shipments required to be transported on American ships.

“This language was inserted in the dead of the night,” the Executive Committee pointed out, “without consulting maritime labor or the U.S. maritime industry, and without even a single congressional hearing on the subject.”

“The U.S. maritime industry is a critical element of our nation’s transportation system and vital to our economic and national security,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind.  “We must reverse last year’s congressional action to weaken cargo preference laws as well as strengthen the enforcement of these statutory requirements across every agency of our government.”

 

CONTACT: Jennifer Michels, Jmichels@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395-2195

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Transportation Unions Push Plan to Avert Highway Trust Fund Cliff

 ORLANDO, FL—Seeking to end a stalemate on long-term federal support for public transit and highway investments, AFL-CIO transportation unions are calling for a bipartisan solution to fix a “broken and outdated funding system” for these critical national investments.

In a policy statement unanimously adopted by the Executive Committee of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), transportation union leaders said that the purchasing power of the Highway Trust Fund has fallen 33 percent in two decades. “No nation in the world can run a 2013 surface transportation system on a 1993 budget,” they said in their statement. TTD affiliates support an increase in the gas tax indexed to inflation, as well as possibly replacing the current excise tax with a sales tax.

“The Highway Trust Fund is headed toward insolvency after 2014,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind, pointing out that transit investments would drop from $11 billion to $3.5 billion and for highways funding would plummet from $40 billion to $4.5 billion. “These reckless cuts will devastate our public transportation systems and highways, destroy tens of thousands of jobs and tank our national economy.”

The transportation unions offered a variety of federal funding sources that should all be on the table as Congress works to write a multi-year bill and avert this crisis.

“As this debate unfolds, we will focus our energy on seeking a bipartisan political solution to the gridlock in Washington that is strangling our economy,” the Executive Committee wrote, adding that America faces a “mobility cliff” if Congress and the President fail to act.

CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, Jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395.2195

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Options for Avoiding the Highway Trust Fund Cliff

While Washington obsesses over the so-called “deficit crisis,” the reality is that America has a jobs and transportation infrastructure crisis, a product of decades of neglect and indifference by policymakers.  This crisis reaches into every sector of our transportation system and we are committed to its reversal.

The most significant barrier to restoring America’s surface transportation infrastructure is a broken and outdated funding system as politicians from both parties have been all too willing to postpone difficult choices.  This “kick the can down the road” approach may have been politically expedient or even necessary in the short-term, but the consequences have been devastating to our transportation system and our economic competitiveness.  If Washington gridlock kills serious proposals to fix our surface transportation funding mechanisms, millions of jobs will be at risk and the already alarming deterioration of our freight and passenger transportation systems will only worsen.

Projections tell us that at the current rate of investment, the U.S. will spend $1.1 trillion below what is needed between now and 2020.  Sadly, at this rate it would take almost 80 years to complete the transit projects that are currently on the books.  And with the projected insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) in 2015 – sort of a “mobility cliff” staring us in the face – there is no more time for brinksmanship.

The HTF provides financing for public transportation and road and bridge construction.  Until recently, the HTF was funded primarily by the assessment of federal excise taxes of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel fuel.  These user fees were never indexed for inflation and as a result, their buying power has fallen 33 percent since they were last increased in 1993.  No nation in the world can run a 2013 surface transportation system on a 1993 budget.

In the early 1990s, the per gallon charge accounted for 17 percent of the cost of a gallon of gas, but today it represents only about 5 percent of the per gallon assessment.  This decrease in buying power has caused the HTF to pay out more than it takes in.  As a result, the HTF now spends $15 billion more than it receives each year, and every state received more in funding than it contributed in the years between 2005 and 2009.  To fill this funding gap, over $40 billion has been injected into the HTF from the General Fund since 2008.  The Congressional Budget Office recently projected that the trust fund would be able to meet its obligations through the end of fiscal year 2014, but after that it may be insolvent.  Without any reforms to the revenue stream, the Highway Account would incur a $365.50 billion deficit over the next 23 years.

Exacerbating the HTF’s underfunding is that the date of its anticipated insolvency coincides with the expiration of MAP-21, the surface transportation reauthorization legislation signed into law in 2012.  Although MAP-21 did provide needed stability in trust fund expenditures, Congress was unable to agree on a sustainable and long-term solution to address the shortfall in the HTF.  When MAP-21 expires, however, it will no longer have that luxury.  If the HTF is allowed to become insolvent in fiscal year 2015, annual federal investments for transit would drop from $11 billion to $3.5 billion and for highways these payments would plummet from $40 billion to $4.5 billion.  Allowing these programs to fall over this cliff would kill most planned projects and threaten millions of jobs.  Clearly, Congress cannot delay any longer.  An answer must be found.

The simplest solution to the threat of insolvency is to increase the gas tax and index it to inflation.  The gas tax has a long bipartisan history.  It was Ronald Reagan who defended a gas tax increase by saying, “Our country’s outstanding highway system was built on the user fee principle – that those who benefit from a use should share in its cost.”  And in 2009, the bipartisan National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission proposed a 10-cent increase in the gasoline tax, a 15-cent hike in the diesel tax and indexing each tax rate to inflation.  This approach has been endorsed by the labor movement and businesses of all sizes.  Yet to date, anti-tax zealots and extremists who clearly fail to understand how America maintains and modernizes its transportation system have managed to stop any progress.

One approach to the problems of insolvency and increasing trust fund revenues would be to include a gas tax hike in a deficit agreement.  A gas tax increase has been incorporated into debt relief packages on several occasions.  In late 2010, as a part of the contemporary discussion of this issue, the Simpson-Bowles Commission recommended increasing the gas tax by 15 cents per gallon over three years and dedicating the revenues to fund transportation.  These types of negotiations may be the most appropriate forum for addressing the HTF shortfall.

In the absence of an agreement to increase the gas tax, we recognize that other approaches may be necessary.  One recent proposal, offered by John Horsley, the former Executive Director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, would replace the current excise tax with a sales tax.  This would require the conversion from a flat per gallon rate (that is, 18.4 cents for each gallon of gasoline) to a per dollar percentage.  The specific percentage of such a tax would be set at a level sufficient to provide $350 billion in funding for highway and transit programs over six years.  The end result for drivers would be about $1 per week for each vehicle.  This assessment is structured to ease the pain on consumers, would not change the trust fund’s user fee structure and would continue to be pegged to the price of fuel.  Without an increase in the gas tax as currently structured, we encourage Congress and the White House to give this proposal serious consideration.

Over the longer term, other revenue sources must also be identified.  With increased fuel efficiency standards going into effect, by 2025 cars and light trucks will be required to average 54.5 miles per gallon. Additionally, many consumers and producers are moving to alternative fuel vehicles powered by electricity and natural gas.  As a result, the current revenue structure for the HTF will need to shift away from one that is predicated on the consumption of gasoline and diesel fuel.  Several longer term options are available.  We believe those that continue to be based on user fees are preferable to those that do not.  However, these long-term revenue sources must be viewed as complements to an adjustment in the gas tax.  They cannot serve as a way to avoid important decisions on looming trust fund revenue needs over the next few years.

A vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee would provide trust fund revenue by assessing a charge to roadway users for each mile they drive.  It is the most thoughtful revenue proposal that is not directly linked to fuel consumption.  Like the gas tax, the VMT assesses fees to roadway users, which preserves the user fee model for surface infrastructure investment touted for decades by presidents in both parties.  VMT has been endorsed by an array of commissions, including the National Surface Transportation Infrastructure Financing Commission.  Differing assessments could be levied on various vehicle types, with trucks and other heavy vehicles being assessed higher charges because of the additional wear they cause on roadway surfaces.  Further study may be necessary before full implementation of this approach and such evaluations should focus on easing public concerns regarding privacy and equitable fee assessments.  Additionally, commercial driver’s license holder protections should be provided, similar to those offered for electronic onboard recorders.

Innovative finance initiatives could also help fund certain transportation projects but are not a substitute for real action to address the chronic underfunding of the HTF.  Of course, how these initiatives are implemented is extremely important given the public and employee interest issues that have surfaced over the years.  At a minimum, any innovative financing proposal, including a federal infrastructure bank or a separate public private partnership, must apply Section 13(c) transit worker protections, Davis-Bacon prevailing wage rules, project labor agreements, public employee protections and Buy America requirements.

Creation of a federal infrastructure bank has received significant support and been an element of the President’s vision for economic growth and infrastructure investment.  Such a bank, if properly capitalized, could help to fund intermodal projects and those that affect large regions of the country by offering low-interest loans and loan guarantees.  However, despite the rhetoric that one often hears about this topic inside the beltway, infrastructure banks do not replace the need to provide HTF revenue over the immediate or long term.

Public private partnerships (PPPs) are often lauded as an answer to many national infrastructure challenges; however, their implementation can be complicated and raise certain concerns that must be addressed.  In essence, these transactions are billed as an opportunity to fund public infrastructure needs when public resources are scarce or inadequate.  But of course not all forms of infrastructure can provide sufficient revenue to support this approach and the public interest must be carefully considered as private profits are extracted from public infrastructure.  Those who promise job creation from a PPP should be held accountable and the jobs and rights of public employees must be protected.  PPPs can have their place in the delivery of certain transportation projects but they must be carefully managed to ensure they are not used to weaken labor standards, eliminate public sector jobs or ignore the public interest.

As this debate unfolds, we will focus our energy on seeking a bipartisan political solution to the gridlock in Washington that is strangling our economy.  Real policy solutions to the funding crisis faced by our surface transportation system do exist.  What have been lacking are the political will to move forward and a serious commitment to fixing this systemic problem.  TTD is committed to this effort and will make the case that funding our surface transportation system will create and sustain jobs, grow our economy and ensure our country can compete and win in the international marketplace.

Policy Statement No. W13-01
Adopted February 24, 2013

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Sequestration Risks Our Economy and Transportation System

As our economy remains on a slow path to recovery, obstructionists in Congress are poised to force sequestration – indiscriminate and reckless cuts in federal spending – that would take effect on March 1 in the absence of a congressional deal.

The politicians are saying America needs a full economic recovery led by middle class job creation. Rhetoric alone will not rebuild the economy – robust investments in job-creating programs will. Of course, adopting across-the-board cuts imposed by sequestration will decimate already under-funded programs that support our economy and, in particular, our depleted transportation system.

But unless Congress acts to avoid this ill-advised course, public and private sector workers across the country will lose their jobs and critical programs will be idled including those that make our transportation system safe and efficient.

When politicians went to work on plans to reduce federal spending, Congress eventually enacted legislation that set the level of discretionary spending so low that its share of gross domestic product (GDP) is on track to be lower than any year for which we have a record. In other words, funding that supports transportation programs and other valuable investments in our nation will fall below the lowest level of support in 45 years, even without factoring in the reckless sequestration cuts set for March 1.

Such dramatic underfunding has serious consequences. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, reduced government spending was a main contributing factor in the economic contraction in the fourth quarter of 2012. And the Congressional Budget Office projects that for 2013, GDP will grow slowly, by just 1.4 percent, in part due to sequestration, causing unemployment to hover around 8 percent. Yet, some in Congress believe the best solution to fixing the deficit is to slice another $85 billion from federal spending in Fiscal Year 2013. If these cuts take effect, critical transportation programs will be cut by 9 percent.

These cuts will harm a transportation system that is already sorely underfunded and burdened by heavy usage across all modes. In particular, the cuts would require the furlough of air traffic controllers, aviation safety inspectors, aviation systems specialists and Transportation Security Administration Transportation Security Officers (TSOs). These vital government employees keep our aviation system and our nation safe. Additionally, the Maritime Security Program, which ensures naval support during times of war and national emergencies, would be impacted when cuts are levied at rates even higher than those imposed on non-defense discretionary programs. Rail transportation stands to take a hit as well, likely resulting in the postponement of Amtrak capital investment projects at a time when demand for Amtrak is at an all-time high. And although highway and transit programs supported by the Highway Trust Fund would be largely spared the sequestration knife, discretionary funding that provides grants for new or expanding transit systems under the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) New Starts program would be sequestered.

Further, sequestration would cut emergency relief for super storm Sandy. These funds finally reached Americans on the East Coast nearly three months after they were directly hit by the second costliest storm in history. The East Coast would lose an estimated $1.9 billion of the much needed and long overdue relief funding, limiting its ability to rebuild and fortify the homes, businesses, transportation and other infrastructure that were destroyed by the disaster. In other words, victims of Sandy had to wait months for government relief while House extremists played political games with peoples’ lives and livelihoods. These same victims of a natural disaster will see their assistance cut, again due to brinksmanship by House extremists who want to make fiscal cliff politics the new normal in Washington. We condemn this strategy and call on Congress to fulfill its duties without wrecking the national economy and vital programs.

There is no question that federal departments and agencies would have to trim or furlough essential staff to meet the demands of sequestration. These federal workers, who have dedicated their careers to public service and come to work every day to fulfill their commitment, should not be made scapegoats just for doing their jobs. Hundreds of thousands of federal employees could be furloughed, including many of those whose positions are integral to the safe operations of our transportation system. In fact, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) federal controller Danny Werfel stated that sequestration would cause the FAA “to cut resources in a way that’s going to impact the air traffic controller workforce.”  In addition, federal maritime workers who serve essential defense functions, such as those at the Military Sealift Command, would be impacted.

Proponents of this reckless strategy of careening from one fiscal cliff to the next claim that their strategy is about averting risks to the economy. The real threat is their risky austerity plan, complete with cuts to vital programs that undermine the safety and efficiency of our transportation system while threatening good jobs and our public health and retirement programs. We cannot cut our way to a recovery, nor can we pretend that reducing the federal workforce will resolve our deficit.

The solution for leaders on Capitol Hill should be tax fairness, such as closing tax loopholes for wealthy corporations and making sure everyone, including billionaires, pays their fair share. We should not be cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits while simultaneously clinging to a tax code that favors the wealthiest in America.

Americans don’t need cuts, they need jobs. We should be investing several hundred billion dollars in transportation programs, our infrastructure and other initiatives that create middle class jobs and retool and modernize our economy. Every dollar that is invested in infrastructure results in GDP growth of $1.59, and for every $1 billion of federal transportation investment, an estimated 30,000 people go to work.

Transportation spending is the kind of investment we need to strengthen our future, grow the economy and tackle our deficit. We urge Congress to stand up for American workers and the American economy, and reject the ravages of sequestration.

Policy Statement No. W13-04
Adopted February 24, 2013

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Protecting U.S. Aviation Jobs in a Global Aviation Industry

Today, international aviation and the role that U.S. carriers and their workers play in our air transportation system is at a crossroads.  While over 100 trade liberalization pacts, referred to as “open skies” agreements, already exist between the U.S. and various governments, new and expanded agreements are on the table.  In addition, the European Union (E.U.) is actively pushing to relax U.S. foreign ownership and control rules and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) seeks, against our objections, to expand its reach into economic regulations.

How these issues are handled and addressed over the next several months and years will determine if a strong and vibrant U.S. aviation industry is preserved, or whether foreign airlines and their governments will be allowed to dictate a playing field inherently tilted in their favor at the expense of U.S. aviation employees.  We know that expanded international opportunities for U.S. air carriers can have a positive impact on the jobs and wages of pilots, flight attendants, mechanics and other ground workers and we have supported those types of balanced agreements.  At the same time, we have, and will continue to, reject efforts that seek liberalization at any cost and without adequate protections for the workers represented by TTD unions.  Decades of unfair trade policy have ravaged workers in many U.S. industries and we are committed to ensuring that liberalized aviation trade does not have the same result for U.S. aviation employees.

When the U.S. and the E.U. negotiated the bilateral Air Transport Agreement we were pleased that it included, for the first time ever, a labor article and a process through which the parties can seek to address adverse effects of the agreement on aviation employees.  The U.S. also rejected efforts by the E.U. to force changes to our rules and regulations limiting foreign ownership and control of U.S. airlines.  In fact, the Bush Administration attempted to push through a rule change allowing foreign control of U.S. airlines as part of its effort to secure an open skies agreement with the E.U.  But that proposal was rejected by Congress.  The final open skies agreement, completed in 2011 under the direction of the Obama Administration, left intact our rules governing foreign investment in our airlines.

Foreign ownership and control rules, and prohibitions against foreign carriers engaging in cabotage, or the carriage of U.S. point-to-point domestic traffic, have protected U.S. aviation workers against unfair competition, preserved basic labor rights and ensured our nation’s status as the world’s leader in air transportation.  Foreign states have long lobbied to loosen these restrictions in order to gain a foothold in the lucrative U.S. aviation market, the world’s largest, and syphon off jobs to lower-cost foreign carriers.  In addition, there are serious security issues that make foreign ownership and control of U.S. airlines, as well as cabotage, especially ill-advised.

Relaxing foreign ownership and control rules would strain our government’s ability to mandate and enforce critical security standards as it will be impossible to assert U.S. security interests when a foreign interest is so integrally involved in controlling the operations of a U.S. air carrier.  Moreover, the ability of our government to manage the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF) program, which assures U.S. air carrier capacity for our military’s air transport needs during wars and conflicts, would be undermined.  Under relaxed foreign ownership and control rules we question how a foreign executive that controls the commercial aspects of a U.S. carrier but does not support our military strategy would be compelled to provide CRAF air transport services during a war or conflict.  Finally, we know that if foreign carriers are allowed to take over U.S. airlines, the practice of outsourcing aircraft maintenance to foreign countries – already a major problem that has cost thousands of skilled U.S. jobs and undermined safety – will only accelerate.

Despite these issues, we know that the debate over foreign ownership and control will continue.  The U.S. and the E.U. have commenced high-level working group discussions on initiating a U.S.-E.U. free trade agreement (FTA).  Though the U.S. position has been clear on foreign ownership and control laws, E.U. negotiators have already indicated that they will seek to loosen these laws in the scope of an FTA.  We believe that the FTA talks should exclude any air transport services, particularly in light of the recently negotiated U.S.-E.U. Air Transport Agreement.  The inclusion of foreign ownership and control laws in the FTA talks are inappropriate, and must be soundly rejected by United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the Administration.

Those nations that wish to loosen our foreign ownership and control laws may also look to the proposed International Services Agreement (ISA) between the U.S. and about 20 other countries as another avenue.  Once again, we reject the notion that air transport services should be discussed in the context of the ISA, and believe that international air traffic rights and related services are best established through the existing system of bilateral open skies agreements.  We believe that the most appropriate way for our government to open new markets in aviation is through the existing open skies regime which has accomplished important trade objectives without undermining core labor standards and foreign control and ownership laws.

Even within the framework of bilateral open skies agreements, there should not be a one-size-fits-all approach.  Every foreign state with which we negotiate presents different challenges and concerns with respect to the U.S. aviation system and its workforce.  An agreement with a non-market economy like China will present wholly different issues than an agreement with the E.U.  In every case, however, our government must promote the expansion of our aviation system while protecting basic labor principles best represented by the International Labor Organization (I.L.O.) Conventions and accompanying jurisprudence.  By adopting these standards, in addition to protecting U.S. foreign ownership and control laws, our government can ensure that international liberalization proposals will not negatively impact aviation employees.

From March 18-22, 2013, ICAO will convene and the U.S. government will attend the Sixth Worldwide Air Transport Conference in Montreal.  In advance of this conference, the ICAO Secretariat released several Working Papers that outlined the conference’s shockingly ambitious agenda.  We believe that ICAO has valuable contributions to make in international aviation safety and security, and we also welcome an ICAO agreement on emissions standards for aircraft as opposed to the unilateral approach undertaken by the E.U. Emissions Trading System (E.U.-E.T.S.).  However, ICAO is not the appropriate body to address the myriad of economic regulatory issues addressed in the Secretariat’s Working Papers.  We do not agree with the Secretariat’s claim that “the leadership role of ICAO in economic regulation on international air transport… is indisputable.” (Secretariat WP/16).  In fact, the Working Papers promote many initiatives that we have repeatedly urged our own government to advocate against in the context of liberalization agreements.

Among the issues that the ICAO Secretariat promotes are the commercialization and privatization of airports and air navigation services, liberalization of air carrier ownership and control, liberalization of air cargo services and expanding market access for international air transport.  We believe the privatization proposal would threaten the safety and reliability of the National Airspace System by removing government responsibility, oversight and control.  We are also unequivocally opposed to international efforts to undermine U.S. ownership and control rules for U.S. airlines, and we oppose the liberalization and expansion of market access for air transport through the broad multilateral air services agreements that ICAO proposes in its Working Papers.

The U.S. aviation industry and its workers face significant challenges and opportunities as globalization and liberalization become more prevalent.  Already, U.S. aviation crews have seen their jobs threatened by corporate schemes such as alliances between U.S. and foreign air carriers.  Similarly, foreign outsourcing of aircraft maintenance and passenger service functions is sending good U.S. aviation jobs overseas.  Through bilateral air services agreements that protect the U.S. airline industry and its employees, and include ILO core labor standards, the U.S. government can open new markets and opportunities for U.S. air carriers while creating and protecting high quality U.S. aviation jobs.  That is the agenda we will pursue in the coming months and will urge the Obama Administration to embrace.

Policy Statement No. W13-06
Adopted February 24, 2013

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Let Your Voice Be Heard

At least 1,500 union workers gathered on Capitol Hill this week and demanded that no cuts be made to Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security as part of across-the-board sequestration cuts scheduled to take effect on March 1.  They stood in the front yard of Congress and asked that the future of America not be jeopardized for the sake of the wealthiest 1% and special interest groups.  And we stand with them in delivering that message.

This particular gathering, led by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), was to remind Congress that everyone in this country should have access to a good job, are paid a livable wage, and have healthcare benefits and a secure retirement.  And that every child in America needs access to a good education.  As TTD President Edward Wytkind said in his Jobs Not Cuts blog, we need a long-term plan to fund our nation’s transportation system, which would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs.  In other words, a common sense solution already exists to boost our economy.  But what we can’t have is massive cuts to vital transportation programs.

Like President Obama shared during his State of the Union address:  “We won’t grow the middle class simply by shifting the cost of health care or college onto families that are already struggling, or by forcing communities to lay off more teachers, cops, and firefighters.”  TTD and our members also believe the burden of our economy should not rest solely on the backs of the middle class.

The White House is giving everyone a chance to be heard through a new initiative, Citizens Response, where you can share thoughts about the President’s State of the Union address.

Let the President know what part of his message struck a chord with you.  Perhaps it was when he said: “But we gather here knowing that there are millions of Americans whose hard work and dedication have not yet been rewarded.  Our economy is adding jobs — but too many people still can’t find full-time employment.  Corporate profits have skyrocketed to all-time highs — but for more than a decade, wages and incomes have barely budged.”

So, let your voice be heard in Washington.  Let the President know you agree with his thoughts on the need to boost wages and create new jobs.  Meanwhile, keep your message to Congress simple.  Join us and many unions in asking for #JobsNotCuts.

 

End Sequestration Nonsense Before Aviation Safety is Impacted

The U.S. is home to the busiest and safest aviation system in the world and thousands of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees make sure it stays that way every day.   But some in Congress, those who think we should cut our way to prosperity, are prepared to allow sequestration  — across-the-board cuts — to go into effect  March 1st.

For the FAA this means the loss of $627 million and mandatory furloughs of employees who work tirelessly to keep our skies safe, such as aviation safety inspectors, systems specialists and air traffic controllers.  It means reduced operating hours and hiring freezes.  It means a slow down on aviation operations and a squeeze on the billions of dollars the industry pumps into our economy.

The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS) and its members are working to stop sequestration before it negatively impacts aviation safety and FAA employees.

We need to keep this manufactured deficit crisis off our ramps and tarmacs and out of our radar rooms and control towers.  We cannot again allow a loggerhead in Congress to result in furloughs for aviation safety specialists.  The FAA and other agencies need the security of knowing that it will be business as usual on March 1 and beyond.

As the clock ticks down over the next two weeks, let’s tell Congress these misguided austerity measures would have a damaging impact on the safety and efficiency of our nation’s airspace system.

 

 

Politico—Advocates: Lautenberg Saved Lives

[As posted by Kathryn Wolfe and Scott Wong in Politico]

New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s decision to retire at the end of his term hands transportation safety advocates their second piece of political bad news in recent months.

Lautenberg, who chairs the Senate Commerce panel in charge of highways, transit, rail and maritime issues, said Thursday that he won’t run for reelection in 2014. That came a month after Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the full Commerce Committee and a staunch safety advocate, announced he would not run for reelection.

In a statement, Lautenberg, 89, insisted that his decision did not mark the “end of anything, but rather the beginning” of a two-year push on some of his priorities, including gun safety laws and toxic chemicals. “While I may not be seeking reelection, there is plenty of work to do before the end of this term and I’m going to keep fighting as hard as ever for the people of New Jersey in the U.S. Senate.”

His departure is particularly bad news for transportation safety advocates, considering his long legislative resume. He authored the 1984 law that set the minimum drinking age at 21, and wrote another that banned so-called triple-trailer “killer” trucks. He sponsored the law that lowered the legal blood-alcohol limit to 0.08 percent. And he was instrumental in shaping the safety title for MAP-21, which included funding for teen driving and sobriety programs and improving the safety of motor coaches.

He has also been intimately involved in combating human fatigue and strengthening hours-of-service requirements across modes of transportation. And he had a hand in fending off an attempt by the George W. Bush administration to privatize air traffic control towers.

Safety advocates had high praise for Lautenberg, noting that — with little fanfare — he made his mark on nearly every piece of transportation safety legislation over the past three decades.

“In his career in the Senate, he has probably saved more lives than most doctors — this man has saved tens of thousands of lives and probably most of them don’t know who he is,” said Jackie Gillan, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, who has worked with Lautenberg for more than 20 years.

“Not only has he been an amazing and dedicated champion for highway safety, he’s also taken on the most powerful and well-funded special interests,” Gillan said.

His allies point out that Lautenberg not only was a senior member of Commerce and the Environment and Public Works panel, but he also served on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

“He got programs launched and then made sure there was adequate funding for them,” Gillan said.

At least one group may be a little happier to see Lautenberg depart: large trucking outfits. Lautenberg has been heavily involved in thwarting attempts by the American Trucking Associations to increase limits on what size trucks can use federally funded highways.

Bill Graves, president and CEO of ATA, called Lautenberg a “tireless advocate for transportation safety” and said that “while we may have differed from time to time on the best method of achieving that goal, we have always appreciated and respected his passion for the issue.”

Laura O’Neill, director of government affairs for the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which opposed raising truck size and weight limits, said she was “shocked” to hear Lautenberg’s decision, saying he is a “fighter” whom she’d expected to run again.

“In Congress, you’d be hard pressed to find a person more passionate about trucking issues than the senator,” O’Neill said. “He has had a top-notch staff over the years and has worked tirelessly. We haven’t always agreed on every issue but I certainly wish him well.”

Lautenberg’s departure will also have an impact on the perennial fight over Amtrak. Lautenberg has been a regular champion for a robustly funded Amtrak and has been heavily involved in fighting attempts to privatize the Northeast Corridor.

Ed Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, said Lautenberg deserves as much credit as anyone for tanking last year’s GOP effort to privatize the Northeast Corridor operations. Then-House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) had introduced a draft privatization bill last year, but had to yank it in the face of significant opposition.

Wytkind noted that when Mica held a hearing on his draft, Lautenberg came to the House to testify against it.

“Which shows you how committed he is. With the limited time … it’s hard to get senators to show up everywhere they need to show up in the Senate let alone work their way over to the House,” Wytkind said.

And Lautenberg got into a scuffle with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over Christie’s decision to pull the plug on an effort to dig a new rail tunnel under the Hudson River to connect New Jersey and Manhattan, known as the ARC Tunnel. Lautenberg has thrown his weight behind a similar project being spearheaded by Amtrak known as the Gateway Tunnel.

Rockefeller, himself a 28-year veteran of the Senate, learned of Lautenberg’s retirement Thursday afternoon during a vote on the floor. He had been with Lautenberg earlier in the day, but the New Jersey Democrat gave him no indication.

“It will leave a big hole on transportation and harbors and ports,” Rockefeller told POLITICO. But even with the departure of two of the Commerce Committee’s most senior Democrats, Rockefeller assured with a smile that “the world will go on.”

The panel’s roster could change between now and 2014, but the next most-senior Democrat on Commerce who could pick up the gavel of Lautenberg’s subcommittee is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). But she already has passed up other Commerce subcommittee assignments, not to mention the full committee chairmanship itself, so she may not be interested. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) is the next most senior member, but he may not want to give up the gavel of the coveted subcommittee in charge of telecom issues.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) would be the next most-senior lawmaker in a position to jump subcommittees. She now chairs the panel on consumer protection and product safety.

Of course, no senator has a monopoly on attention to safety issues, and there are a handful of junior lawmakers who could step in to help fill the void when Lautenberg leaves the Senate in January 2015.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who just won reelection to a six-year term, recently sponsored a teen driving law and has been involved in aviation safety following a deadly regional jet crash near Buffalo. Both Pryor and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) — the likely successor for Rockefeller as chairman of the full committee — have made auto safety a priority. And in 2009, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) teamed with Lautenberg on legislation to keep repeat drunken drivers off the road.

But Wytkind noted that losing someone with Lautenberg’s long tenure means losing institutional history that isn’t easily replaced.

“I’m sure [his void] will be filled, but you can’t take away from his legacy and story,” Wytkind said. “He’s made transportation a lifetime commitment, and he’s spent decades in public life talking about these kinds of issues.”

Stop Sequestration Before it Impacts Our National Airspace System

Photo courtesy of NATCAThe clock is ticking toward a March 1 deadline when federal “sequestration” cuts will take effect unless Congress acts.  If the cuts do go through, our economy will take a hit but our National Airspace System (NAS), in particular, will be imperiled.  We can’t let that happen, and there is a way you can help.

Sequestration will trigger a $483 million cut in the Federal Aviation Administration operations budget, which would mean mandatory furloughs among FAA workers including air traffic controllers and aviation safety inspectors and systems specialists —most of whom are members of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS).

We’ve been through this before. When Republican brinksmanship halted progress on the FAA Reauthorization Act in 2011, almost 4,000 FAA employees were sent home without pay for 13 days—pawns in a game designed to pump up the agenda of anti-government zealots.  This is wrong – please add your voice to this battle.

The American public has made it abundantly clear that America needs jobs, not cuts.  Americans have rejected this idea that we should use the current budget impasse in Washington to manufacture a crisis and impose cuts on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid while coddling a tax code that favors the super-rich.  Now these antics threaten to sacrifice air safety and the incredibly important work that FAA workers do to make air travel the safest in the world.

As March 1 fast approaches, take action right now to protest the sequestration cuts that will hurt the efficiency and capacity of our nation’s aviation system, and undermine air safety.

 

Politico—Transportation: Things to Watch in 2013

[As posted by Kathryn Wolfe in Politico]

Transportation and infrastructure funding has been in the spotlight post-Hurricane Sandy — but actually finding the money to invest in the nation’s roads, rails and bridges is another matter. The enormous open question is whether lawmakers can eventually find a solution to dwindling gas tax receipts needed to shore up the Highway Trust Fund.

THREE AREAS TO WATCH

TRANSPORTATION BILL: Congress partially resolved the difficulties on the last transportation bill by making it unusually short — just two years.  That means the bill will again expire at the end of 2014, during the 113th Congress. As before, the most pitched battle will be fought over how and where lawmakers can find more money to shore up flagging gas tax receipts.

Outlook: Congress will eventually pass a transportation bill, but what its financing mechanisms might look like and how many extensions it might take is anyone’s guess.

AMTRAK: The last bill that authorized Amtrak, enacted in 2008, is set to expire. Prior to that bill, Amtrak hadn’t been reauthorized for many years.  House Republicans in particular are expected to take another run at privatizing Amtrak, likely as part of the reauthorization — even though they had to pull back from an earlier attempt after a significant backlash.

Outlook: In recent years Amtrak has operated without an active authorization perhaps more often than it’s had one, and allowing the current authorization to expire doesn’t carry any dire consequences. If conservatives want to put privatization on the table as part of the bill, it might be a heavy lift.

WRDA: The Water Resources Development Act, which allows members of Congress to set water infrastructure repair and construction priorities for the Army Corps of Engineers, is also up for reauthorization. It’s typically a contentious bill, mostly due to dissatisfaction with the way the Army Corps operates, but it’s made even more complicated this cycle by the strictures imposed by the current earmark ban.

Outlook: The last WRDA bill had to be enacted by overriding a presidential veto; President George W. Bush was unhappy with the dollar figure attached to the bill. But what enabled the override — project authorizations — may be what makes the bill difficult to get through Congress this time around, because of the earmark ban.

FIVE KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH

Next year Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) will ascend to the ranking spot on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where he will be responsible for writing the all-important highway spending title for the next transportation bill. Though he hasn’t been as loud of an infrastructure booster as his predecessor, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Vitter was instrumental in writing MAP-21 and endorsed its passage. He’ll also play an outsized role in the WRDA reauthorization.

As the incoming head of the Association of American State Highway and Transportation Officials, Frederick “Bud” Wright will be well-positioned to drive the debate on the next transportation bill.  Beyond his position at the top of an influential organization, Wright has been involved in writing several major transportation bills — including 1998’s TEA-21.

Stephen Martinko, who’s served as chief of staff for Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), is seeing his fortunes rise with his boss. With Shuster taking the gavel of the House Transportation Committee, Martinko, who’s had Shuster’s back for years, will become the committee’s deputy chief of staff, where he will likely have a hand in most if not all of the committee’s dealings in the 113th Congress.

Sen. Barbara Boxer’s senior policy adviser on Environment and Public Works, David Napoliello, will again have to navigate the treacherous waters of a transportation bill after having put the last one to bed.  Napoliello, the sort of young Capitol Hill brain trust whom other people call when they need to understand something, previously had a stint at DOT more than a decade long, with his final job being budget chief at the Federal Highway Administration.

Amtrak is likely to be another hot-button, and Ed Wytkind, head of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, is virtually assured a seat at any negotiating table. His organization is partially what caused the House GOP to abandon an attempt earlier this year to push a bill privatizing Amtrak.

BY THE NUMBERS

21.9 percent
National Highway System bridges classified as “structurally deficient” or “functionally obsolete” in 2009.

D
grade given to the nation’s aviation infrastructure by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

68.6 percent
change from 2000 to 2008 in vehicle revenue miles for light rail nationwide.

22.8
average one-way commuting time in minutes by car.

SOURCES: Federal Highway Administration and American Society of Civil Engineers 2009 report card for infrastructure.

$313 million

Cumulative losses to GDP between 2012-2020 for failing to address waterways infrastructure needs.

More Rigorous Oversight Needed to Ensure Safety of Outsourced Aircraft Repairs

WASHINGTON, DC—In comments submitted to a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) proposed rulemaking, TTD agreed with the agency that “deficiencies” exist with safety and oversight of contract aircraft repair stations and that new rules are needed to address this problem.

However, TTD still believes more needs to be done. If maintenance work is going to be outsourced, especially the most comprehensive “covered work,” it should be done at a certified Part 145 repair station.

“As the FAA correctly points out, our nation’s air carriers now contract out a full 70 percent of their maintenance,” said President Edward Wytkind. “How can anyone argue that outsourced work, much of it performed overseas, does not need to meet the same safety standards as in-house maintenance, or that employees do not need the same level of training and oversight?”

While TTD supports the overall increased oversight of these stations sought by the FAA, the proposal still falls short. For example, it should require an air carrier representative to be physically present to observe the work being performed.

“As we have watched maintenance outsourcing increase steadily over the past few years, there is no reason to believe this trend will not continue or that more deficiencies won’t be found. Congress and this administration have spoken on this issue — more rigorous oversight is needed,” said Wytkind.

TTD’s 31 affiliated unions include the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU), both of which represent mechanics, as well as the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) union, which represents FAA inspectors.

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, (m) 703.395-2195

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TTD Statement on State of the Union Address

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind releases this statement in anticipation of President Obama’s State of the Union address on February 12:

“The President has a chance tomorrow night to make the case for rebuilding our nation, beginning with the expansion of our depleted transportation system and infrastructure.

“On President Obama’s watch, rebuilding and modernizing our transportation network have been key ingredients of his Administration’s economic agenda. There is no arguing that the debate has changed on the vital role of transportation in our economy because of the President’s leadership. But now is the time to advance a vision that includes a long-term plan to pay for these critically needed investments.

“We are also hopeful that during the President’s second term more Americans will be empowered to form and join unions and pursue their economic dreams through the power of collective bargaining.

“Billions in transportation investments will put hundreds of thousands to work, and giving more of those workers collective bargaining rights on the job will provide them with a pathway to the middle class.”

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Contact:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395.2195

Press Release on PDF

 

The Hill–Unions Want Big Transportation Push in State of the Union

[By Keith Laing of The Hill]

 

The largest collection of unions that represents transportation workers is urging President Obama to go big on their industries in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

“The president has a chance tomorrow night to make the case for rebuilding our nation, beginning with the expansion of our depleted transportation system and infrastructure,” AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind said in a statement.

Wytkind said he hoped Obama would also use his prime-time address to both chambers of Congress to defend the role of unions.

“We are also hopeful that during the President’s second term more Americans will be empowered to form and join unions and pursue their economic dreams through the power of collective bargaining,” Wytkind said. “Billions in transportation investments will put hundreds of thousands to work, and giving more of those workers collective bargaining rights on the job will provide them with a pathway to the middle class.

The transportation sector has featured some of the largest fights about labor issues in recent years. The bill that contains funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) was held up for several years by a fight between House Republicans and Senate Democrats over union rules for airline workers.

Similarly, an effort by airplane manufacturer Boeing to open a plant in South Carolina to build its 787 airplanes became embroiled in controversy when labor leaders argued the decision was made in retaliation for votes by unionized workers in Washington state.Obama has used previous State of the Union speeches to push for broad expansions of infrastructure spending. He first rolled out his proposal for a national network of high-speed railways that conservatives later dubbed “ObamaRail” at an earlier State of the Union address.

However, in recent years, Obama has been reticent to tout specific proposals like the railways. Instead, Obama has focused on advocating for general infrastructure improvements like repairing existing roads and bridges, to the dismay of transportation supporters.

Wytkind argued Monday however that Obama has attempted to change the debate about transportation spending.

“On President Obama’s watch, rebuilding and modernizing our transportation network have been key ingredients of his Administration’s economic agenda,” he said. “There is no arguing that the debate has changed on the vital role of transportation in our economy because of the president’s leadership.”

Even as he said that, however, Wytkind called for Obama to leave the transportation generalities in the dust bin for this year’s State of the Union.

“Now is the time to advance a vision that includes a long-term plan to pay for these critically needed investments,” he said.

Obama is scheduled to give the State of the Union before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday at 9 p.m.

Politico—Modest Hopes for Transportation in SOTU

[As posted by Kathryn Wolfe in Politico]

Most transportation policy-watchers expect President Barack Obama to offer up a comment on infrastructure during his State of the Union speech — just not much of one.

One transportation lobbyist says the president will mention infrastructure “in passing. It seems to be a fairly consistent theme. The big question is always — what is he proposing to do about it?”

During last year’s State of the Union, Obama called for “nation-building here at home” and rebuilding “crumbling roads and bridges” — familiar tropes. He also reached back into the history books to reference great American infrastructure projects: the Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, and the Interstate highway system. And he announced an effort to clear away red tape associated with some transportation projects.

Even now that the campaign is over, Obama has continued to push transportation investments, both as a means to create jobs and also as a way to boost the country’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.

A pair of speeches Obama gave recently point the way to transportation themes that could be on tap for Tuesday’s speech. The most recent, delivered at a mid-January press conference, was a brief call for a “balanced package” of revenues and spending cuts as part of a debt deal.

Americans “don’t think it’s smart to protect endless corporate loopholes and tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans rather than rebuild our roads and our schools …” Obama said.

And just a few days earlier, Obama’s weekly radio address recited earlier proposals he’s had to use the “peace dividend” from ending military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq to pay for more infrastructure spending.

“We will end this war, bring our troops home and continue the work of rebuilding America,” Obama said.

As always, though, questions remain about funding for the infrastructure investment Obama continues to talk about. That’s the Holy Grail for infrastructure boosters, who acknowledge that it’s unlikely to come up in his speech.

Pete Ruane, president and CEO of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, said he’s “very confident he’ll talk about the need for more investment. But we need to hope he amplifies.”

It isn’t enough, Ruane said, to make a generic comment in a laundry list of things that the country needs to do.

“[That] is great but it’s really not sufficient to merit anybody taking it seriously,” Ruane said. “We want to see him lead with specific ways in which they’re going to finance it, and that way it’ll engender, I think, a much more serious discussion.”

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), who hasn’t hesitated to criticize Obama’s leadership on infrastructure, said Obama has never made a serious commitment to significant infrastructure investment, and recalled how the administration dragged its feet on a transportation bill when Obama first took office.

“They pulled the plug on our four-year bill and screwed [Former House Transportation Chairman Jim] Oberstar, who they had promised the next thing they would support would be a four-year transportation bill, and they didn’t do it,” DeFazio said.

Americans apparently agree in general, though they also lump Congress in with the president. According to a Pew Research Center’s annual policy priorities survey released in January, just 30 percent of Americans surveyed thought dealing with infrastructure was a “top priority” for the president and Congress in the coming year.

Ed Wytkind, head of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, said the speech probably wouldn’t be a “blockbuster,” considering that “we’re still going to be mired in a discussion about the finances of our government.”

“But what’s clear is the president and his secretary of Transportation have made these issues important elements of their economic agenda. And so, yeah, we would hope that message would continue to ring in this State of the Union speech,” he said.

In any case, Ruane said a funding solution needs to happen soon. He recounted having visited the World Economic Forum recently, where U.S. infrastructure was ranked 23rd of all countries — between Barbados and Portugal.

“We have a new rallying call and say, ‘We’re number 23!  We’re number 23!’  It’s pathetic,” Ruane said. “They talk a good game, but the rest of the world is eating our lunch. They don’t want to pay attention to it because, ‘Oh, we might have to raise a user fee or come up with a new user fee.’”

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

TTD Applauds DOL Action to Ensure Airline Flight Crew Are Protected Under FMLA

WASHINGTON, DC—The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) applauds the Department of Labor (DOL) for issuing a final rule today that guarantees flight crew members are not denied Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protections.

With passage of the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act in 2009, Congress established new FMLA leave eligibility requirements that addressed the unique nature of flight crew member scheduling. However, this final rule provides necessary guidance to ensure that the new FMLA policies are consistently applied throughout the industry, and establish a basic benefit floor for all flight crew members regardless of their employer.

This ruling essentially confirms that these workers have been covered since Congress passed the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act of 2009, but also provides the guidance needed to calculate who meets the hours-worked threshold required by law to qualify.

“This ruling fixes a fundamental injustice that was not intended when the original act was passed two decades ago,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “Because these workers do not conform to a normal 40-hour work week model, they should not have to negotiate special provisions in their contracts in order to care for elderly or ill family members or take adequate maternity and paternity leave.”

The FMLA guarantees that eligible workers may take up to 12 weeks to care for themselves or a family member without risk of losing their jobs. But because the original law set a minimum number of hours worked per year, it did not properly translate to flight crew members who have duty-time limits. The 2009 Technical Corrections Act set a minimum hours-of-service eligibility requirement for flight crew.

“Work remains to ensure that all FMLA provisions adequately cover all transportation workers, including those in the rail sector,” said Wytkind.

Contact: Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 703.395.2195

Press Release on PDF

Let’s Finally End Accounting Gimmickry and Boost Maritime Jobs

Photo courtesy of Masters, Mates & PilotsImagine that the government was sitting on a pile of money – billions, actually – that had been collected for a purpose that is critical to maintaining our nation’s standing in the global economy.  Now consider that, if this money were put to the use for which it was collected, it would create middle-class jobs and foster commerce.  You’d think the nation’s lawmakers, who read the same jobs reports we do, would have put that money right to work, wouldn’t you?

If you did, you’d be wrong.

In reality, you don’t have to imagine the scenario I just laid out; incredibly, this is the fate of much of the revenue collected through the Harbor Maintenance Tax – money collected from shippers for the purpose of maintaining and improving the nation’s ports and navigation channels.

The dollars collected through the tax go to the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund (HMTF), which finances the work of dredging and taking care of the ports’ infrastructure needs.  Yet, even as many of our ports lack the necessary depths to properly accommodate the next generation of container ships that move freight, the HMTF has, year after year, racked up surpluses – at least in theory.  In truth, about half of the money collected through the Harbor Maintenance Tax has been used for other purposes. The trust fund’s current on-paper surplus weighs in at $7 billion.

That’s why TTD is supporting legislation introduced last week in both the House and Senate that would require the resources of the HMTF to be spent on port upkeep, dredging and other harbor maintenance projects. (Actually, we’ve been advocating this approach for a while now.)  As Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said at a hearing on the matter last week: “Continued maintenance of port facilities is critical for the commerce and jobs that rely on these economic hubs…”

As if the current inadequate level of maintenance wasn’t enough of a problem, U.S. ports now face the prospect of mega-vessels traveling through what will soon be the newly expanded Panama Canal that will bring super-sized container ships to our ports, or even worse, see them diverted to foreign ports.  If we are serious about being the world’s economic power we certainly can’t permit technology and innovation to leave our freight transportation system and economy behind.

Whether the HMTF has been diverted to other purposes or simply stuffed under Uncle Sam’s mattress, it’s time to put those dollars to work – to make sure we do right by an industry and workforce that play a critical role in our economy.

Yes, let’s imagine that day when America actually spends harbor trust fund dollars to boost port and maritime jobs and America’s competitiveness in an increasingly brutal global economy.  It is time for lawmakers to end HMTF accounting gimmickry that is harming our economy and stifling maritime commerce.

Transportation Issues Daily – Roundup of Reactions to LaHood Resignation

[By Larry Ehl of Transportation Issues Daily]

USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood will be a tough act to follow. Image – Jonathon Maus, BikePortland.

Here are excerpts of reaction from all corners of the transportation industry to USDOT Secretary Ray LaHood’s resignation announcement.

President Obama: “As Secretary of Transportation, he has fought to create jobs and grow our economy by rebuilding our roads, bridges and transit systems. Under his leadership, we have made significant investments in our passenger rail system and laid the groundwork for the high-speed rail network of the future.  And every American who travels by air, rail or highway can thank Ray for his commitment to making our entire transportation system safer and stronger,” (President Obama Reflects on Ray LaHood’s Accomplishments, Transportation Issues Daily).

Senator Maria Cantwell (Washington state), who worked with LaHood on freight and other transportation issues: “Secretary LaHood was a critical partner in passing new transportation and aviation bills last year that have put people to work improving roads, bridges, transit, and air travel across America,” (Sen. Maria Cantwell Reflects on Work with LaHood on Freight, Transportation Issues Daily)

The Washington, D.C.-based Women’s Transportation Seminar International said LaHood made it a priority to increase the number of women working in the transportation industry (WTS news release). “While he’s been leading the charge to keep America’s transportation structure operating, he’s also been working and partnering with organizations like ours with an eye on the future. Workforce development is critical for this country and the world’s future, and bringing young women and other critical populations into the industry is where Secretary LaHood’s passion comes through.”

“While he’s been leading the charge to keep America’s transportation structure operating, he’s also been working and partnering with organizations like ours with an eye on the future. Workforce development is critical for this country and the world’s future, and bringing young women and other critical populations into the industry is where Secretary LaHood’s passion comes through.”

Recently retired AASHTO Executive Director John Horsley commented that “We at AASHTO applaud U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for four years of dedicated leadership, especially on safety. On his watch, highway fatalities have dropped by about 5,000 deaths per year. Distracted driving is a national priority today because of his personal zeal. He also helped states create thousands of jobs through investments in highways, transit, and high-speed rail.”

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman — and potential Transportation secretary candidate — Deborah Hersman observed that LaHood “led the way on several important initiatives, including the effort to stop texting while driving, addressing the commercial vehicle safety, and pushing for the long-awaited rule to address fatigue in the cockpit, to name just three of the key safety initiatives under the secretary’s leadership.”

Natural Resources Defense Council Executive Director Peter Lehner praised LaHood for a helping to “shift the DOT’s priorities away from traditional highway-building and toward creating a more flexible, efficient, interconnected 21st-century transportation system.” Lehner also thanked LaHood for supporting “historic fuel efficiency standards for cars that will double gas mileage by 2025″ and are “the biggest step yet by the federal government to reduce our dangerous dependence on oil and tackle global warming.”

American Public Transportation Association President and CEO Michael Melaniphy said Secretary LaHood was a “tireless advocate for public transportation….his hard work and dedication to advancing public transportation will continue on in the programs that were championed under his leadership.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving ”is extremely grateful for Secretary LaHood’s leadership and his commitment to issues of highway safety during his time in office. He has truly been a leader in drunk driving prevention by supporting MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and demonstrating a willingness to find long-term solutions to drunk driving, such as the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS).”

Craig Fuller, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said “We wish Secretary LaHood the best in his future endeavors,” Fuller said. “Ray LaHood ran the Department of Transportation at a time of great change, especially in aviation. Technology-driven innovations, such as the NextGen advances in air traffic control and airspace management, are just now taking shape, and we look forward to working closely with his successor to ensure that general aviation continues to play a vital role in our nation’s transportation system.”

President Edward Wytkind of theTransportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO noted that “Secretary LaHood has been a forceful advocate for a safe and modern transportation system.  He oversaw a historic $48 billion transportation economic stimulus program that created or saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. He sent a clear message that our economic recovery will stall if we failed to repair, upgrade and expand our battered transportation infrastructure and boost domestic transportation manufacturing. And he implemented major policy initiatives that will spur innovation and save lives.”

Transportation for America observed that “Perhaps one of [LaHood’s] most valuable roles over the past four years has been as a plainspoken yet highly visible advocate for a smarter way of using transportation dollars to better line up with what Americans really want — which he described after seeing our national poll that affirmed that Americans want more transportation options. . . . When the groundbreaking Partnership for Sustainable Communities — the partnership between DOT, Housing and the EPA — was under threat of budget cuts Sec. LaHood was a strong advocate for the partnership and its common sense approach of coordinating their efforts and making the most of these three agencies’ work.”

BikePortland comments that “while we might quibble with his record here and there, LaHood was a breath of fresh air from a corner of the Cabinet that had never before treated bicycling like a grown-up. His dedication to traffic safety and distracted driving prevention and his support for bicycling moved the needle of bicycle respect. LaHood’s endorsements of bicycling’s legitimacy helped spur a riding renaissance happening now in cities throughout America.”

Michael Brune, Sierra Club Executive Director, said “Sec. LaHood will leave behind a legacy of helping establish historic increases in fuel economy standards for cars and light trucks, implementing the first-ever fuel efficiency standards for medium and heavy duty trucks, creating a model for investing in forward-thinking transportation projects, bringing together federal agencies to build livable, sustainable cities, and advancing programs to ensure safe biking and walking in our communities. In short, Sec. LaHood leaves behind a cleaner, more efficient transportation system for America.  He is truly deserving of the Sierra Club’s 2012 Edgar Wayburn Award, the highest award given to a public official for service to the environment.”

Scott Belcher, President and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, noted that Secretary LaHood has been “a stalwart advocate for the nation’s transportation system, working tirelessly over the past four years to find solutions to critical safety, mobility and infrastructure challenges. His willingness to tackle tough problems and speak out about issues like distracted driving and the need for greater infrastructure investment has significantly elevated the role of transportation in the national dialogue, including as a key driver of economic growth. We have been particularly grateful for the Secretary’s active participation in the ITS community and his strong support for the connected vehicle program and other technology-based solutions.”

Building America’s Future Co-Chair Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: “Secretary LaHood has shown real vision in the world of transportation, and his work to reach across the aisle is a great example of the bi-partisan leadership that we need more of in Washington.  His tireless advocacy for safety and investments in critical infrastructure helped shape transportation policy in ways that will benefit Americans for years to come.”

BlueGreen Alliance Executive Director David Foster commented that LaHood was a “fierce ally on behalf of better and safer rail, transit and roads. His commitments to domestic manufacturing for transportation investments and to expanding access to high-speed rail and transit are second to none. Under his leadership, he deftly implemented hundreds of Recovery Act projects and transit investments that have put people to work and benefited Americans in every corner of the country.”

American Trucking Associations spokesman Sean McNally said the group “appreciates secretary LaHood’s service to the country as transportation secretary, particularly in elevating the highway safety discussion on distracted driving.”

Building America’s Future Co-Chair Former Governor Ed Rendell said: “Secretary LaHood has been one of the stars of President Obama’s Cabinet.  From his advocacy for investment in our roads, rails, ports and aviation systems to his incredibly effective implementation of the stimulus transportation funding, especially the TIGER grant program, he covered all the bases with passion and commitment.  The mayors and governors of this country know that Secretary LaHood was a champion for their projects and their communities.

American Bus Association President and CEO Peter Pantuso noted that LaHood was a “strong supporter and good friend to the motorcoach industry (pdf news release). The American Bus Association has worked closely with the Secretary on a variety of issues to improve motorcoach safety, including the passage of the new transportation bill last fall, which includes several key measures that will improve the safety of the industry. Under Secretary LaHood’s strong leadership, the Department of Transportation continues to find and shut down motorcoach companies that have repeatedly been cited for illegal operations and refusing to operate under the rules that safe, compliant companies follow.”

Statement on Transportation Secretary LaHood’s Departure

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issued the following statement following the announcement of the imminent departure of Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood:

“Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s departure from the President’s Cabinet is a loss for the nation as we strive to address America’s mounting passenger and freight transportation needs.

“Secretary LaHood has been a forceful advocate for a safe and modern transportation system.  He oversaw a historic $48 billion transportation economic stimulus program that created or saved hundreds of thousands of jobs. He sent a clear message that our economic recovery will stall if we failed to repair, upgrade and expand our battered transportation infrastructure and boost domestic transportation manufacturing. And he implemented major policy initiatives that will spur innovation and save lives.

“On a personal note, I have known Secretary LaHood for almost 20 years. He has always sought our views and collaborated with us. His door is always open whether you are a Republican or Democratic, or if you advocate for labor or management. That is a rare quality seen today in Washington. His greatest legacy may actually turn out to be his ability to put passion and principle over politics.

“We applaud Secretary LaHood for his service to this Administration and look forward to partnering with him again in the future on the critical transportation challenges that lie ahead.”

###

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, 703.395.2195

On TTD Letterhead

Sandy Bill Critical to Storm Ravaged Northeast Transportation Systems

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on Senate passage of the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill (H.R.152):

“Thanks to Senate action last night residents and businesses in New York, New Jersey and other parts of the Northeast will soon receive long overdue federal relief from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The $50.5 billion package that cleared the Senate includes significant funds for restoration and improvement of the Northeast passenger and freight transportation system that took a direct hit from the hurricane.

“The storm-ravaged Northeast has waited long enough for this relief. Americans have always come to the aid of fellow Americans who are suffering. It is regrettable that obstructionists in Washington forced the people of New York and New Jersey – and their decimated homes, businesses and transportation systems – to wait this long for emergency aid.”

 

###

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact: Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 703.395.2195

On TTD Letterhead

It’s Time to Extend OSHA Protections to Cabin Crew

Mr. Gene Kirkendall
Part 121 Air Carrier Operations Branch (AFS-220)
Flight Standards Service
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, DC  20591

    RE:     Policy Statement on Occupational Safety and Health Standards for Aircraft  Cabin Crewmembers
               Docket No. FAA-2012-0953

Dear Mr. Kirkendall:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to comment on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed policy statement on Occupational Safety and Health Standards for Aircraft Cabin Crewmembers and its implementation of Section 829 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.  By way of background, TTD represents 31 affiliated unions in the transportation sector, including several unions whose members would be directly impacted by this policy statement.[1]

At the outset, TTD offers our strong support for this proposed policy statement and commends the FAA, along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for working to close a policy loophole that has denied flight attendants adequate occupational health and safety rules for far too long.  As the agency is well aware, TTD and our affiliated unions representing flight attendants – the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the International Association of Machinists and the Transport Workers Union – have long argued that exempting this workforce from the rules promulgated pursuant to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 has been a critical mistake. 

As the FAA correctly notes in its proposed policy statement, Section 4(b)(1) of the OSH Act does allow federal agencies other than OSHA to exercise their own authorities to regulate the conditions of specific classes of employees.  But the decision by the FAA in 1975 to state that its regulatory framework fully occupies the field of occupational health and safety for flight attendants while working onboard aircraft in operation, thereby preempting OSHA, has left this workforce unprotected.  Flight attendants, who play a critical role in aviation transportation and ensure the safety of countless passengers each day, have too often been exposed to a harmful workplace environment that has resulted in injury rates far exceeding industry norms.  In reality, the FAA has not adequately regulated occupational health and safety and going forward OSHA is significantly better positioned to meet this responsibility. 

Recognizing this fact, Congress sought to close this regulatory loophole for flight attendants in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-95).  Section 829 of that law calls on the FAA to develop a policy on extending applicable OSHA standards to flight attendants.  We commend the FAA for collaborating with OSHA to meet this congressional mandate. 

We are specifically pleased that the FAA has replaced the 1975 policy statement with the one being proposed in this proceeding and that the “FAA has determined that its regulations do not completely encompass the safety and health aspects of the work environments of aircraft crewmembers while the aircraft is in operation…” We are also pleased that the FAA and OSHA, as directed by the FAA bill, have identified specific protections that can and should be applied to flight attendants without impacting other aspects of aviation safety or creating operational problems.  The identification of these issues builds on the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into by the FAA and OSHA in 2000 and represents a modest and responsible implementation of Section 829.  Indeed, the specific protections, summarized below, will address hazards faced by flight attendants on a daily basis.

Hazard Communication

During normal working conditions and emergency situations, flight attendants may be exposed to chemicals that pose health and safety hazards, such as vapors from the aircraft’s fuel and chemicals found in cleaning solutions used inside the aircraft cabin.  The application of OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard would help protect flight attendants who come into contact with hazardous chemicals by ensuring that they have the information and training required to be knowledgeable about the dangers in their workplace and to protect themselves from exposure.

Bloodborne Pathogens

As the frontline workers who closely interact with the flying public, crewmembers may put their own health at risk if they come into contact with the bodily fluids of passengers who have communicable diseases.  The Bloodborne Pathogens Standard would help protect flight attendants who are subject to occupational exposure by providing them with training about bloodborne pathogens and appropriate protections and procedures. 

Hearing Conservation

Additionally, flight attendants often work in noisy conditions throughout flight on some aircraft, and on most aircraft, during takeoffs and landings and assisting passengers as they board and disembark.  For the crewmembers subject to excessive noise levels, the Hearing Conservation Standard would ensure that regular noise exposure and audiometric testing are performed as necessary, that flight attendants have and wear hearing protection if needed, and that they are provided information and training on this hazard.

It is also relevant, and appropriate, that the proposed policy statement makes clear that OSHA will work to ensure that airlines will not be subject to multiple state health and safety rules.  Given that airlines travel in multiple jurisdictions, this recognition in the policy statement is an important one that we support.  

TTD appreciates the FAA’s efforts to protect flight attendants from various hazards in their workplace by extending the specified OSHA standards to cabin crewmembers.  We also appreciate that the FAA pursued a transparent process for this proceeding and provided all stakeholders ample time to review the proposed policy statement and provide comments. 

We believe the FAA’s proposed policy statement makes appropriate and needed changes that will finally bring safety and health standards to the aircraft cabin.  We urge the timely implementation of the proposed policy statement.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President



[1] Attached is a list of TTD’s affiliated unions. 
PDF Version

Transportation Labor Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

WASHINGTON, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement as the nation honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.:

“Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. saw early on that it was the labor movement that could propel our citizens out of poverty and hopelessness and set them firmly on a path to the middle class.  We are reminded every day of Dr. King’s legacy and of the work yet to be done to ensure that all Americans, not just the privileged, have access to good jobs, safe workplaces, quality health care and retirement security.

“Sadly, we are still fighting many of the same battles for social and economic justice that Dr. King fought with such clarity and resolve many decades ago.  It was in 1961 that Dr. King warned of a law called right-to-work, saying, ‘It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.’

“To truly honor Dr. King, we must both remember and act on his words. We must commit to give more working men and women the right to bargain collectively and to form and join unions that Dr. King once said, ‘transformed misery and despair into hope and progress.’

“We can honor Dr. King with our activism and resolve to take on those in politics, including many in office today, who seek to hollow out the labor movement and turn back the clock on workers’ rights.”

###

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact: Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 703.395.2195

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

Time to Connect the Dots Between High-Speed Rail and Middle-Class Jobs

Amtrak in snow resized

The questions of how to generate more high-paying jobs in America and how to regain our pre-eminence as the world leader of safe and efficient transportation  are ones that shouldn’t be asked on separate tracks.

We need a transportation network in this country that is interwoven and properly funded from our waterways to our railways to our runways to our highways.   As I explained at a Transportation Research Board (TRB) panel on high-speed rail (HSR) earlier this week, we can’t be an economic power if we’re defined by slow passenger trains, eroding bridges, over-crowded transit systems, aging aviation technology, congested highways and ports that are choking the economy.

One piece of that overall strategy, a product of President Obama’s vision, is the development of a national HSR network.

And Amtrak must be the centerpiece of this network .  Amtrak has the experience with federal safety regulations, the skilled workforce and the expertise to deliver HSR to Americans.  We know President Obama and America’s most avid Amtrak passenger, Vice President Joe Biden, are committed to stopping the practice of making the rail company run a national system on a shoestring budget.  Obama and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood deserve credit for making HSR a legacy issue and in trying to reinvigorate U.S. transportation manufacturing with Buy America policies.

So why are we still so far behind other nations?  For one thing, we need a large, skilled workforce to carry this out.   America is littered with examples of botched privatization and contracting schemes that left us with reduced wages, weakened health care and pension protections, and eroded or eliminated bargaining rights.  This labor model ensures our HSR goals will fail miserably.

I told the TRB meeting it is disingenuous – perhaps dishonest – for us to plot and debate strategies for workforce development, training and recruiting if we fail to give workers a path to the middle class.  I want to look a high school or college student in the eyes and be able to say that HSR and other transportation industry jobs offer a clear path to the middle class.  It would be a travesty for America to pay billions for a state of the art HSR system but then cut all the wrong corners in hiring.

I’ll be back at it at the TRB annual meeting on Jan. 17 (#TRBAM) discussing and tweeting about how workforce development becomes a front-and-center issue in the debate over how America transitions to the next generation, multi-modal transportation system that can support middle class careers.

 

TTD Applauds Passage of Overdue Sandy Relief Funding

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issued the following statement upon passage of The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act (H.R.152):

“We are pleased that the House of Representatives put aside partisan differences tonight to deliver much needed and long overdue emergency relief funding to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and to the ravaged East Coast transportation system.

“With passage of both the Harold Rogers (R-KY) and Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) amendments and defeat of many possible poison pill amendments, the House finally fulfilled its responsibility to help Americans in times of need and natural disaster. While it is a shame that it took nearly three months to pass this desperately needed legislation, the regions devastated by Sandy will finally be able to rebuild homes and communities, businesses and battered infrastructure.”

Contact: Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 703.395.2195

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

TTD Supports Crack Down of Unsafe Bus Operators

January 14, 2013

Mr. Juan Moya
Transportation Specialist, Enforcement Division
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC  20590

RE:     Patterns of Safety Violations by Motor Carrier Management

                        Docket No. FMCSA-2011-0321

Dear Mr. Moya:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am pleased to comment on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on Patterns of Safety Violations by Motor Carrier Management.  By way of background, TTD represents 31 affiliated unions, including several that represent workers who operate over-the-road buses and other commercial motor vehicles and therefore have an interest in this rulemaking.(1)

We wish to express support for FMCSA’s proposed rule to implement section 4113 of P.L. 109-59 (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users) as amended by section 32112 of P.L. 112-141 (Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act or MAP-21).  TTD and our affiliates have long argued for increasing enforcement of federal safety regulations and cracking down on motor carriers that try to evade compliance.  The proposed rule addresses many of these concerns by setting procedures to suspend or revoke the operating authority of motor carriers that demonstrate a pattern of blatant disregard for safety regulations as well as reincarnated carriers, and establishing new and enhanced fines for noncompliance.  By strengthening FMCSA’s ability to deter violations and removing unlawful carriers from our highways, this proposed rule would help improve the safety of motor carrier drivers, passengers and all those traveling our nation’s highways.

Under Administrator Ferro’s leadership, FMCSA has been a leader in promoting motorcoach safety, strengthening its standards and enforcement efforts by issuing rulemakings and increasing inspections, compliance reviews, and out-of-service orders.  Just this past May, FMCSA ordered 26 curbside bus operators out-of-service for posing “imminent hazards to public safety.”[2]  Each carrier had several offenses “including a continuous pattern of” failing to ensure their drivers complied with hours-of-service regulations. [3]

As FMCSA correctly acknowledged in its enforcement orders, driver fatigue is a critical problem in the over-the-road bus sector.  While we understand that hours-of-service updates are beyond the scope of this rulemaking, we do recommend that more must be done to enhance fatigue-related rules.  Fatigue can slow drivers’ reaction times and cause mistakes that well-rested drivers wouldn’t make.  Without correcting the issues that lead to driver fatigue, this problem will continue to undermine the safety of our roadways and put passengers and other drivers at risk.

Although the majority of motor carriers run legitimate operations, some demonstrate an egregious disregard for federal regulations intended to keep passengers and drivers safe.  Some carriers regularly violate these standards, such as the 26 operations shut down in May.

Equally troubling are “reincarnated” carriers that apply for operating registrations under new identities or use common ownership to establish a ‘new’ company in order to avoid compliance or escape a history of violations.  In 2008, a motorcoach operated by Iguala BusMex, Inc. crashed in Sherman, Texas, killing 17 and injuring 38 of its passengers.[4]  According to the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) Highway Accident Report, the owner of the company also owned Angel Tours, Inc. which was ordered out-of-service a month before the owner applied for a new operating authority under Iguala BusMex.  Angel Tours had a poor operating history including an unsatisfactory rating that included three critical violations among its other offenses, operating after being ordered out-of-service, and losing several of its vehicles and drivers to out-of-service orders.[5]

Iguala BusMex, Inc. was a reincarnated carrier operating without authority and with a U.S. Department of Transportation number belonging to another company.[6]  This accident is just one example of the dangerous consequences that may result from such a stark disregard for safety and blatant attempt to circumvent federal regulations.  Administrator Ferro stated in her September 2012 testimony that reincarnation is not rare, noting that “[i]t is a common practice…for some motor carriers to establish a new identity once FMCSA shuts the company down…”[7]

The potential for future similar accidents is only exacerbated by the fact that “intercity bus remains America’s fastest growing form of intercity travel” for five years in a row, having grown by 7.5% and adding more than 250 daily scheduled services in 2012.[8]  Thus, FMCSA has a growing challenge to ensure the safety of passengers and drivers.  This rulemaking will aid the agency’s efforts by strengthening deterrents and improving efforts to identify and crackdown on carriers that evade responsibility.

Under this rulemaking, FMCSA implements rules to suspend or revoke the operating authority registration of a motor carrier that engages in a practice or pattern of avoiding compliance or masking noncompliance.  This also applies to a motor carrier that allows a person who currently or has previously engaged in a pattern or practice of noncompliance to have “controlling influence” over its operations.  The motor carrier, or person with controlling influence, engages in noncompliance when it fails to, or conceals failure to, comply with regulations issued under 49 USC Chapter 311, subchapter III, comply with redress orders, pay civil fines or respond to enforcement actions.

We support the establishment of these four infractions as the triggers of a potential suspension order, as such conduct clearly demonstrates a lack of concern for safety regulations.  Further, identifying the frequency with which these infractions occur and reviewing the carrier’s previous or ongoing enforcement actions, are important considerations when determining whether the carrier’s violation is an isolated event or just one instance in a pattern of noncompliance.  We also support the minimum factors FMCSA will consider when determining if a pattern of noncompliance exists, as identified in proposed section 385.909.

This NPRM also sets standards for revoking or suspending the operating registration of a motor carrier that reincarnates to avoid compliance or conceal noncompliance.  Like the accident in Sherman, Texas, the substantial continuity between two or more operations becomes clear when considering certain factors.  Iguala BusMex, Inc. was owned by the same individual, operated from the same address with the same equipment and drivers, and serviced the same passenger population as its originator.[9]

Although the carrier didn’t have an operating authority to suspend or revoke, FMCSA would have been able to determine that it was a reincarnated company by considering the factors proposed in section 385.911.  These include the dates the motor carriers were created and dissolved; the relationships between the carriers’ shareholders, officers, or employees; and the continuity and commonality of physical assets, corporate names, and the nature and scope of operations such as the passengers they serve.  These factors are good indicators that one carrier is merely the continuation of another, and we support them as well as the others included in section 385.911.

Moreover, we support section 385.915 and its procedures to revoke a motor carrier’s operating authority.  When FMCSA identifies a pattern of violation or finds evidence of reincarnation and subsequently issues a suspension order, we believe that the motor carrier must comply.  If a motor carrier disregards the agency’s authority and continues to operate in spite of the order, then its operating authority must be revoked.

Furthermore, we believe that the procedures by which FMCSA could suspend and revoke operating authorities provide motor carriers with adequate time to show good cause and petition for administrative review of an order.  The regulation makes clear that an operating authority registration would be suspended only after the agency determines that a pattern or practice of noncompliance or covering noncompliance exists.  Thus, carriers operating legitimate businesses would not be adversely affected by this rulemaking, and in fact stand to benefit from safer roads.

Finally, we believe it is appropriate and helpful in deterring carriers from committing violations or concealing them, to subject carriers to civil and criminal penalties under 49 USC 521(b).  We therefore support the clarifying language in section 385.921.  We also support the amendment to Appendix A to Part 386, which establishes that a motor carrier would be subject to a fine of up to $11,000 per day that it operates in violation of a suspension or revocation order.  This additional fine would act as another deterrent to ignoring the agency’s order and safety regulations.

It should also be noted that when motor carriers repeatedly violate federal standards, they establish an unfair advantage over their legitimate competitors.  By cutting corners on necessary maintenance, hiring unfit or unlicensed drivers, or by requiring their drivers to work longer hours than federally permitted, unlawful carriers undercut legitimate businesses, forcing them to reduce services and/or cut employee wages and benefits.  In fact, a study released in January 2013 found that in the case of FMCSA’s actions in May 2012, the unlawful carriers’ competitors have since found new market opportunities in light of the vacuum created by the shutdown orders.[10]  Thus, lawful carriers would benefit from this rulemaking not only from safer roadways, but also from a leveled playing field.

TTD appreciates FMCSA’s efforts to tackle the dangers posed by repeat offenders and reincarnated carriers, and we hope you will take our comments into consideration.  As noted above, we also hope you will work with us and our affiliated unions to further address driver fatigue and to move forward on other measures that will enhance the safety of this critical sector of our transportation system.

Sincerely,

Edward Wytkind
President



[1]  A complete list of TTD affiliated unions is attached.

[2] Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, Press Release, U.S. Department of Transportation Shuts Down 26 Bus Operations in Unprecedented Sweep, May 31, 2012. Available at http://fmcsa.dot.gov/about/news/news-releases/2012/I-95-Bus-Release.aspx.

[3] The carriers’ violations also included failing to have their vehicles maintained and inspected regularly, “using drivers without valid commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and failure to have alcohol and drug testing programs.”Id.

[4] National Transportation Safety Board, Highway Accident Report, Motorcoach Run-Off-the-Bridge and Rollover, Sherman, Texas, August 8, 2008, NTSB/HAR-09/02, PB2009-916102 Notation 8078A (October 27, 2009) at ii.

[5] Id. at 29, 30.

[6] Id. at 29.

[7] Ferro, Anne. Statement to the Senate, Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Taking Consumers for a Ride: Business Practices in the Household Goods Moving Industry, Hearing, September 20, 2012. Available at: http://fmcsa.dot.gov/about/news/testimony/tst-12-9-20.htm. Accessed 1/4/2012.

[8] Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Development, DePaul University, The Motor Coach Metamorphosis, 2012 Year-in-Review of Intercity Bus Service in the United States. (January 6, 2013) at 2,8.

[9] National Transportation Safety Board, Highway Accident Report, Motorcoach Run-Off-the-Bridge and Rollover, Sherman, Texas, August 8, 2008, NTSB/HAR-09/02, PB2009-916102 Notation 8078A (October 27, 2009) at 31.

[10] Chaddick Institute of Metropolitan Development, DePaul University, The Motor Coach Metamorphosis, 2012 Year-in-Review of Intercity Bus Service in the United States. (January 6, 2013) at 6.

These comments in PDF

TTD Fights to Clear Sandy Relief Bill

Dear Representative:

Nearly three months ago the East Coast of the United States was directly hit by Hurricane Sandy, resulting in the second costliest storm in our history.  While Congress has historically come together to support regions devastated by natural disasters, New York, New Jersey and other states hit by the storm continue to wait for federal aid to help rebuild their homes, businesses, and vital transportation infrastructure.

This week, when the House considers the supplemental Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, I ask that you vote in favor of both the $17 billion provided in Chairman Harold Rogers’ (R-KY) substitute amendment as well as the $33 billion provided in the amendment submitted by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ).  The funding provided in both amendments is critical to helping the region rebuild and move forward.

Hurricane Sandy’s path brought devastation to one of the most densely populated regions in our nation as well as one of the most traveled transportation corridors.  The storm swept away bridges, flooded tunnels, wrecked rail lines, battered ports and damaged airports and air traffic control towers.  The New York City subway system, the largest in the country, was put out of commission throughout the southern parts of Manhattan.  And the nation’s busiest passenger rail corridor, the Northeast Corridor, suffered serious damage to its tracks and electrical systems.  Commuter rail and regional transit systems also saw terrible damage to their fleets and infrastructure.  These repairs will take time and dedicated investment from the federal government.

The base bill and substitute offered by Chairman Rogers provide some minimal relief funding when combined with the $9 billion for flood insurance passed two weeks ago.  However, the Frelinghuysen Amendment provides the additional funding to ensure that repairs are completed in full, and that important mitigating work is done to strengthen the region’s transportation infrastructure and lessen the impact of future storms to the systems.  We urge you to vote in favor of both amendments, and do so without requiring offsets.

We also urge you to vote against any amendments that will arbitrarily restrict relief funds, weaken important labor standards, or eliminate specific portions of aid from the bill.  The areas ravaged by this storm have waited for too long for Congress to step up and provide the help needed.  It is time for our elected leaders to stop playing political games and immediately pass this relief package.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

DisasterReliefApprops

TTD Supports FMCSA Crack Down on Unsafe Bus Carriers

WASHINGTON, DC—Bus operators that blatantly and repeatedly disregard federal safety laws should have their operating authority revoked or suspended, the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) said in comments filed today in support of a new rule proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

“With the rise of unsafe bus carriers that under previous Administrations managed to evade federal safety regulators, we have made it a priority to remove bad actors in the bus industry from our roads,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind.  “This crack down will lead to safer bus transportation for the American people.”

The proposed rule sets procedures to suspend or revoke the operating authority of bus carriers that demonstrate a pattern of willful disregard for safety regulations, and establishes stiffer penalties for noncompliance. The rule also goes after those ordered out-of-service by the DOT from simply re-applying for operating authority under a new name, a common practice according to FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro.

Wytkind told the FMCSA:  “TTD and our affiliates have long argued for increasing enforcement of federal safety regulations and cracking down on motor carriers that try to evade compliance.”

In May 2012 the FMCSA ordered 26 curbside bus operators (those that pick up and drop off on city streets, not from an established bus terminal) to discontinue service because of their threat to public safety. FMCSA found that each carrier had committed several offenses.

“Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Administrator Ferro have again demonstrated that improving transportation safety has been the top priority on their watch,” said Wytkind, “particularly by proposing rules that will strengthen operating and enforcement standards and ensure that unsafe bus operators are taken off the road.”

 

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact: Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 703.395.2195

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

TTD Statement on Working Families Champion Hilda Solis

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on the resignation of Hilda Solis as Secretary of Labor:

“Secretary Solis has been an unwavering champion of workers’ rights and their safety on the job. Her legacy will always be defined best by her aggressive commitment to protect and grow the middle class and making sure our government is on the side of working people.”

 

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact: Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 703.395.2195

This press release on TTD Letterhead

One Airspace — One Level of Safety

plane landing at DCA smallerLate into the evening on Feb. 12, 2009, news reports began flooding the airwaves about a plane crash in a small town in New York that killed all 49 on board.  An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) into the Colgan Air Flight 3407 disaster later revealed that pilot fatigue likely played an important role in inhibiting the pilots’ ability to respond to the adverse conditions that night.

In the months and years following that fatal crash, TTD actively supported the efforts led by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) to implement rules for airline pilot flight rest requirements that were based on actual scientific and human factor research.  FAA rules were finally issued in December 2011, thanks to the dogged focus of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, that go a long way toward limiting situations that could lead to chronically fatigued pilots.

This landmark rulemaking brought common sense safety reforms to the daily working lives of pilots and was a victory for passengers and for those of us who care about aviation safety and working conditions.

But there’s one catch:  the new rules don’t apply to all pilots.

That’s right, despite flying the same aircraft, in the same airspace, and using the same airports and facilities as their commercial passenger counterparts, cargo pilots were carved out from the new pilot fatigue rules.  Imagine driving 55 mph on the highway in the family sedan while a 16-wheeler loaded with freight passes you at 75 because it is exempt from following the same safety rules. Does that pass the reasonable test?

Contrary to what the large cargo carriers and their lobbyists will tell you, cargo pilots suffer from the same fatigue issues as commercial passenger pilots, and often have even more grueling schedules that require them to work through the night, through the next morning and into the afternoon.

Don’t get me wrong — I believe the new FAA standards greatly improve the flight- and duty-time standards for commercial passenger pilots.  But cargo pilots, who operate nearly 10 percent of all flights, fall under fatigue rules that were developed before Armstrong and Aldrin set foot on the moon. That’s right, the original pilot rest regulations harken back to the 1960s.

Fortunately, lawmakers are offering a simple, bipartisan solution.

Reps. Michael Grimm (R-NY) and Tim Bishop (D-NY) recently introduced the Safe Skies Act of 2013 (H.R.182), which would require the FAA to modify its pilot fatigue rules to apply to all pilots.  Predictably, large cargo carriers and the airline lobby (A4A) have already spoken out opposing this common sense solution, and are spreading their old and tired “voodoo science” arguments in Washington to hold on to a carve out that puts profits ahead of safety.

It is time for lawmakers in Washington and the Administration to follow the lead of Reps. Grimm and Bishop and put the lives and safety of our pilots, and the overall safety of our aviation system, ahead of corporate profits.  For too long cargo carriers have used their lobbying might to win exemptions from important safety and security rules.  The industry’s insistence that it be excluded from regulations governing the safe transport of lithium batteries, for example, comes to mind.  Heavy-handed lobbying by special interests shouldn’t leave cargo pilots – and the passenger air carriers with which they share our airspace – exposed to the lethal effects of exhaustion on the job.

We need to put an end to two levels of safety.  And we can start by passing the Safe Skies Act.

 

A ‘Cruel Knife in the Back’

TTD President Ed Wytkind

TTD President Ed Wytkind

The federal government does many things, but its primary duty is to protect the American people from threats, both at home and abroad.  That is why the House GOP’s inaction on aiding suffering people along the East Coast who have been devastated by Hurricane Sandy was referred to as a “cruel knife in the back,” by Rep. Peter King (R-NY).

It is time for the House majority leadership to put the knives away and come to the aid of those suffering immeasurably from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy.  They need their lives rebuilt, their homes restored, their shuttered businesses reopened and their transportation systems repaired and fortified.  That’s what Americans do when Americans are suffering.

We are on Day 67 since Sandy hit the East Coast and the House GOP has yet to approve a dime for the billions in destroyed homes, businesses, transportation systems and other vital infrastructure.  The Senate passed a bipartisan relief bill in December that now just sits as the House GOP plays austerity politics with peoples’ lives.

The House Majority finally relented (sort of) to public condemnations from House GOP members and governors and has agreed to put a $9 billion emergency flood insurance bill on the House floor tomorrow.  That’s a first step.  But those on the East Coast (yes, Democrats, Republicans, independents, even a few socialists I’ll bet) need more than $60 billion to put this horror behind them.

Homes destroyed.  Bridges swept away.   Transit and rail systems pummeled.  Tunnels flooded.  Electric grid networks ruined.  Air traffic control facilities and airports severely damaged.  The savagery of Sandy is real – it isn’t some abstract concept difficult to get your head around.  The depths of winter are now here and we actually have people and businesses still homeless from Sandy’s destruction.

A quick reminder.  It took 10 days for Congress to pass the first relief legislation for hurricane Katrina victims in the Gulf States in 2005; in 12 days Congress acted to help those suffering from hurricane Ike in 2008.  Now we are in week 10 and the victims of Sandy still wait.  What a disgrace.

Let’s look at some of the extremists’ arguments against passing a Sandy relief bill.  “We need offsets,” they said.  Really?  We put two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the credit card, yet to help fellow Americans decimated by a natural disaster we need offsets?  We should just provide relief assistance to fix what is broken and not allocate funds to strengthen and fortify our vulnerable infrastructure.  Really?  I don’t recall anyone crying out against rebuilding the Gulf Coast levies to higher engineering specs so they can withstand another fierce storm like Katrina.  That argument is just plain stupid.  Who has ever heard of replacing 1930s era infrastructure with 1930s era infrastructure in 2013?

This isn’t brain surgery.  The House, often referred to as “The Peoples’ House,” needs to come to the aid of the people.  That’s why elected representatives are in office in the first place.

Senate Confirmation of Michael Huerta Clears Way for Aviation Modernization and Safety Initiatives

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement on Senate confirmation of Michael Huerta as FAA Administrator:

“We are pleased the Senate has confirmed Michael Huerta for a five-year term as the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration. We thank Administrator Huerta for his willingness to serve during such a critical time and we pledge to be a full partner in helping the agency move forward with vital modernization and safety initiatives.

“Administrator Huerta has a proven track record as a problem solver in managing complex aviation investments and policies that make air travel safer and more efficient, and that support middle-class jobs. Moreover, he respects and understands the vital role of public and private sector employees in operating, building, maintaining and modernizing our aviation network.

“With so much unfinished business ahead, such as finding a long-term solution to our chronically underfunded aviation system, Michael Huerta is the right choice to lead that effort as the nation’s chief aviation steward.”

 

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Contact: Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 703.395.2195

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

OPPOSE MCCAIN AMENDMENT TO THE HURRICANE SANDY RELIEF BILL

Dear Senator,

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I urge you to vote against the McCain amendment (#3384) when it is offered to the Hurricane Disaster Relief Appropriations Act.  This amendment would place arbitrary and ill-advised limits on the relief funding provided to Amtrak in the bill and would severely hamper the carrier’s ability to rebuild from Hurricane Sandy and complete critical mitigation projects that would prevent future damage.

Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor – the busiest passenger rail corridor in the United States – took a direct hit from the storm and suffered severely damaged infrastructure, including the flooding of four out of six tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers for the first time in history.  The McCain Amendment would rescind any unspent Amtrak relief funds after two years, and restrict capital improvements and other expenses to those “directly associated” with Hurricane Sandy.

Imposing an arbitrary two year time limit on the completion of recovery projects would threaten Amtrak’s ability to complete complex repairs on the active 100 year old system. Ensuring that the repairs are done properly and succeed in preventing future flood damage will take time, and will likely face delays that are impossible to foresee.  If forced to choose the most expedient repair projects or risk losing necessary relief funds, Amtrak could be faced with higher costs, incomplete projects and a patchwork of short term fixes rather than comprehensive repair and prevention work.

Additionally, the language restricting the use of funds to projects “directly associated” with Hurricane Sandy would prevent Amtrak from performing certain mitigating measures that would lessen the impact of future storms on the system.  Without these mitigating projects taxpayers may be left with a much higher bill the next time a storm strikes the Northeast Corridor.

The Hurricane Disaster Relief Appropriations Act is critical to helping regions devastated by Hurricane Sandy recover from this historic storm and fortify their transportation systems and related infrastructure.  I urge you to support the emergency supplemental appropriations bill and reject the shortsighted McCain amendment.

Sincerely,
Edward Wytkind
President

 

Senator Daniel K. Inouye: War Hero and Middle Class Champion

WASHINGTON, DC—Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues the following statement:

“Transportation labor joins the people of Hawaii and the entire nation in mourning the death and honoring the life of Senator Daniel K. Inouye, a war hero and champion of the middle class.

“For more than five decades transportation workers could count on Senator Inouye to defend their jobs and rights. The Senator always advocated for increased investments in our transportation system and jobs, and aggressively led on policy initiatives that make our nation the world leader in the safe and efficient movement of goods and people.

“The Senator’s unyielding view that Congress should give voice to everyone, not just the privileged, will forever define the legacy of this truly remarkable leader. And he did so with a deep sense of humility and kindness. We will always remember and be inspired by the compassion and decency that defined Senator Inouye’s career in public life.”

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill Will Restore Ravaged Northeast Transportation System

WASHINGTON, DC – Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues this statement in support of the Hurricane Disaster Relief Appropriations Act pending in the U.S. Senate:

“I urge the Senate to quickly pass emergency legislation that will help regions devastated by Hurricane Sandy recover from this historic storm and fortify the infrastructure so that future risks are minimized as much as possible.

“Among the urgent needs faced by New York, New Jersey and other parts of the Northeast is the rebuilding of major segments of the decimated transportation network that millions of commuters and businesses rely on every day. Transit systems, rail lines, airports, air traffic control equipment, highways and seaports all suffered damage during this unprecedented storm and must be repaired and improved if the region is to truly recover.

“New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) saw the destruction of 12 subway stations and major damage at other facilities and systems. Fifteen miles of signaling and bridge connections were likewise devastated. Interstate commuter rail links that carry 77 million riders among Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken, and Manhattan were completely devastated by flooding. Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor took a direct hit in the form of damaged infrastructure and flooding of four out of six tunnels under the Hudson and East rivers for the first time in history.

“LaGuardia Airport was flooded by 100 million gallons of water and Newark, John F. Kennedy and Teterboro airports all suffered significant flooding and power outages. The damage extends to air traffic control tower roofs, approach lighting systems, radar and navigational aids. And at ports, emergency dredging at inlets, harbors and channels must be performed.

“The legislation before the Senate provides $12 billion for these vast transportation needs and is an integral component of the overall post-Sandy recovery, response and mitigation package being considered by Congress. In times of devastating events, whether natural disasters or acts of terror, our nation has always come together, regardless of region, to support those in need.

“The legislation before the Senate keeps faith with the tradition that Americans always come to the aid of fellow Americans. It is the right thing to do and the health of our economy depends on it. We urge passage without delay.”

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

This press release on TTD letterhead

American Jobs at Stake in ILWU Contract Negotiations

WASHINGTON, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) issues this statement on the contract impasse between TTD member International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU) and the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association:

“The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO stands in full support of the 800 striking office clerical workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach who are waging a valiant battle to save good-paying jobs that drive our nation’s economy.

“These workers have gone 30 months without a contract and are drawing a line against the steady and irresponsible outsourcing of their jobs to the lowest bidder. Too many transportation workers have seen their jobs disappear in an epidemic of outsourcing and cost-cutting that has weakened our economy and the middle class. We must not let that happen here.

“Instead of negotiating in good faith, industry representatives have asked the federal government to intervene in this legal strike. These efforts must be soundly rejected. Instead, management officials must negotiate a fair and balanced contract that will preserve these jobs now for future workers. Until that happens, we will stand solidly behind the working men and women of ILWU Local 63 who walk a picket line in the name of economic justice.”

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

TTD Supports Extension of Safety and Health Protections to Flight Attendants

WASHINGTON, DC—Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), made the following statement in support of a proposed new FAA policy to address flight attendant workplace safety in conjunction with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):

“We are pleased that the FAA has proposed a new policy to give our nation’s flight attendants the health and safety protections afforded to most other American workers since President Richard M. Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law in 1970.

“Since 1975 the FAA has preempted OSHA regulations from the aircraft cabin yet has failed to apply occupational health and safety rules to the flight attendant workforce. As a result, illness and injury rates among flight attendants have exceeded industry norms and standard protections have not been enforced in the aircraft cabin.

“TTD and our member unions representing flight attendants have sought to reverse this regulatory loophole, and today’s announcement by the FAA is welcome progress. We commend FAA Acting Administrator Michael P. Huerta for his leadership on this issue, and for collaborating with Occupational Safety and Health Administration Assistant Secretary David Michaels to correct this wrong that has left frontline cabin crew exposed for decades to unnecessary injuries and illnesses.”

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

Time to Coddle the Middle Class for a Change

Photo courtesy of LiUNA

As the fiscal cliff looms, it is becoming nauseating to listen to extremist political operatives and special interest lobbyists argue we should hurt working people, the sick and elderly to ensure the super-rich don’t pay their fair share of the tax burden.

Someone should tell the special interests who coddle millionaires at everyone else’s expense that they lost on election day and the middle class won.

They’re reading from pre-election talking points about how making the wealthy pay a little more will chill the confidence of CEOs to hire and invest and stymie job creation.  No one’s buying this line, and we won’t agree to these strategies from those spending millions to hold on to their special favors in the tax code – even if they have to manufacture an “entitlement crisis” to justify cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  I’m sure they’d even cut vital federal transportation investments to avoid a fairer tax code.

To help amplify our message we have joined Americans for Tax Fairness, a coalition determined to make sure the middle class is protected in any sort of “grand bargain” reached by the President and Congress to avoid the fiscal cliff.  We urge others to join.

Those opposed to tax fairness and policies that boost the middle class are on the wrong side of the facts and are defying the voters who said yes to tax fairness and job creation and no to cuts in Social Security and public health programs.  The fact is that we can’t, as 350 leading economists wrote, deflate our way to prosperity, a misguided notion that would slash millions of new jobs in the transportation and building trades sectors.

Oddly enough, one billionaire spoke clearly against these special interest scare tactics this week when he said raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans will not have a chilling effect on the economy.  Yes, the world’s third wealthiest man, Warren Buffett, said raising taxes on the rich will not dampen the economy.  In fact, he believes it will actually “raise the morale of the middle class.”

As I said on America’s Work Force Radio, the middle class won on Election Day.  Those who would sink the middle class to hold on to an unfair tax code and advance a reckless austerity agenda lost.  And the president’s plan to ‘nation build’ here at home by making transportation and infrastructure investments a key part of his economic recovery plan won.  Remember, for every billion dollars we pour into transportation ‘nation building’ investments at least 30,000 Americans go to work.

As AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka wrote Monday in a letter to members of Congress, “The only reason why Congress might pass such wildly unpopular proposals is that Republicans are holding the economy hostage…Their ransom demands are tax cuts for the wealthy and benefit cuts for working people.  It is time someone stood up to the hostage takers.”

I agree with Rich Trumka: it is time to coddle the middle class for a change.

 

The Hill-GOP Takes Aim at Strengthened Amtrak

[By Keith Laing in The Hill]

 

House Republicans will hold new hearings next week on Amtrak, which Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) is targeting for funding cuts despite recent record ridership numbers.The hearings are part of a year-long effort by Mica designed to prove Amtrak’s nearly $1 billion federal subsidy is a waste of taxpayer dollars.The latest GOP hearings will come after a Thanksgiving holiday that is usually Amtrak’s busiest weekend of the year, and after the national rail passenger carrier has earned good reviews in New York and New Jersey for its response to Hurricane Sandy.Amtrak supporters believe the company has boosted its political standing.

“There is a strong majority view on Capitol Hill in favor of Amtrak moving forward and keeping the enterprise funded,” AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind told The Hill in an interview.He noted that Republicans on Mica’s own committee were divided over a GOP effort to privatize Amtrak’s most profitable routes in the Northeast. The effort in 2011 failed because Republicans like retiring Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) joined Democrats in opposing the plan.

“The proof of this is when Republicans attempted an extreme position on privatization, they couldn’t even get it out of committee because it was wildly unpopular,” Wytkind said. “That puts pressure on Republicans to think twice (about defunding Amtrak).”

Wytkind also believes the public response when Amtrak service was interrupted in New York and New Jersey in the wake of Hurricane Sandy helped its cause.

“Look what happened in New York and New Jersey,” he said. “Nobody in those situations were complaining about rail [subsidies].” Instead, people “were actually quite thrilled to see it restored.”

Mica, the outgoing chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, brushed back suggestions that Sandy would change his attack on Amtrak.

In response to a direct question about whether he would back off from his criticism in the aftermath of Sandy, Mica said only that he was pushing back hearings to adjust to the House’s schedule.

The GOP-led House Transportation Committee has held several hearings this year about Amtrak’s finances to argue that Congress should stop bankrolling the national passenger railway. The topics of the hearings have included the cost of Amtrak’s concession program and its plans to expand high-speed rail in the Northeast, which is the company’s most profitable corridor.

Amtrak has traditionally responded to GOP criticisms by pointing to increases in its ridership in recent years.  The company said last month that it had carried a record 31.2 million passengers in the fiscal year that ended in September, and Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman told lawmakers in October that the company’s fare collections paid for a record 79 percent of its operations last year.

Amtrak has said it had more than 724,000 passengers last Thanksgiving, which was also a holiday record for the company, and it expects to achieve similar numbers this year.  The AAA auto club has predicted that 43.6 million people will travel further than 50 miles away from home for Thanksgiving this year, though the forecast did not specify how many will take railways for their trips.

Amtrak said this week that it was bracing for any passenger increase that comes.

“Thanksgiving is the busiest travel period of the year for Amtrak and America’s Railroad is ready and prepared to accommodate additional passengers with extra trains scheduled in the Northeast Corridor, the Chicago hub, the Pacific Northwest and in California,” the company said in a statement. “Amtrak will use every available passenger rail car in its fleet and will operate its special holiday schedule in the Northeast as repairs have been made following Hurricane Sandy.”

The agency added that it would be serving passengers this week ”a traditional Thanksgiving meal featuring a fully-cooked turkey breast with gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce and side accompaniments.

“Pumpkin pie with whipped cream and maple walnuts will be offered as a dessert option,” the company added.

Amtrak has vocal supporters in both the Democratically-controlled Senate and the White House, so its funding will likely remain on track despite the next round of Capitol Hill hearings.

Mica’s exit from the panel, however, will not provide much of a relief for Amtrak from the House GOP.

Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the incoming committee chairman, has worked closely with Mica on Amtrak issues as chairman of the House Railroad Subcommittee in this Congress.

The long-time Pennsylvania Republican has indicated that he will continue the Amtrak crusade after he assumes the transportation committee gavel.

Lawmakers will have to reauthorize the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA), which is the bill that provides funding to Amtrak and other federal rail projects, in 2013.

 

Let’s Put Politics Aside and Confirm Our Next FAA Administrator

Partisan politics and gridlock are something we are all too familiar with in Washington, especially at the end of a presidential election year.  But when it comes to the stability of our aviation system and the enormous impact it has on our economy, there is no time for political brinksmanship.  This is why I have joined aviation union leaders and many in the industry to call for the swift Senate confirmation of Michael Huerta to be the next Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

President Obama made a wise decision to nominate Mr. Huerta as administrator last spring.  He has proven himself as a capable leader, one focused on aviation innovation, modernization and safety.  But unfortunately, Huerta’s nomination, like others before him, is being held up unnecessarily.

Both Democrats and Republicans have spoken publicly about Huerta’s competence as well as the important role the administrator plays in moving us to a Next Generation (NextGen) air traffic control system.  With about 24 million people about to take to the skies this week —and the busy December holiday period around the corner —let’s hope Senators will find the will to confirm his appointment.

As Paul Rinaldi, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, said of Huerta yesterday:  “He has been a steady hand at the controls of an agency that is making very positive strides forward in serving the public. It is time the Senate moves to approve his nomination.”  Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) President Lee Moak called Huerta’s nomination vital to providing “stability and direction as we undertake a massive upgrade to our nation’s air traffic control system.”

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), I said that I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with Huerta while he has been acting administrator, and previously during his tenure at the DOT.  Huerta has always been strategic, steady and focused on the mission.  The FAA needs exactly his style of leadership during this critical time in aviation.

Time to move forward.  Time for Michael Huerta to be America’s next FAA Administrator.

-@EdWytkind

 

State Freight Strategies Must Focus on Job Creation

November 15, 2012

Mr. Jack Wells
Chief Economist
Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC  20590

RE: Interim Guidance on State Freight Plans and State Freight Advisory Committees
Docket No. DOT-OST-2012-0168

Dear Mr. Wells:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), I am writing to comment on the Department of Transportation’s (DOT or Department) Notice of Interim Guidance on State Freight Plans and State Freight Advisory Committees.  By way of background, TTD represents 31 affiliated unions representing workers in all modes of transportation, including those engaged in the movement of freight.[1]

TTD supports the Department’s efforts to implement sections 1117 and 1118 of MAP-21 by encouraging states to develop State Freight Advisory Committees and State Freight Plans.  We agree with the Department that freight transportation plays a vital role in our nation’s economic strength, and believe that better coordinated efforts can generate economic benefits.

While we are encouraged by DOT’s recommendations set forth in its interim guidance, we believe that states must specifically consider job creation and economic stimulus as they draft their freight strategies.  We recognize that enhanced freight transportation will lead to the creation and preservation of jobs, but we believe that the creation of jobs must be a focus when states develop their plans.  Toward this end, we support the addition of a twelfth recommendation – “Job Creation and Economic Stimulus” – specifically advocating that State Freight Plans proactively include strategies to create and preserve jobs and stimulate economic activity.  Additionally, the recommendation to include employee representatives on State Freight Advisory Committees will provide states with the support and input they need to achieve this important recommendation.

States will maximize their potential for success when they formulate their Freight Plans by identifying and utilizing all viable modes of freight transportation.  However, this has not always been the case.  Maritime transportation, a major component of freight transport, has regrettably been long ignored in federal and state freight policy.  Yet, our nation’s maritime system and ports employ thousands of workers, and provide a critical link in the movement of freight.

Investing in rail and ensuring it’s connected to ports and other hubs of commerce is important to successfully integrating a comprehensive freight network.  By carrying heavy and sizeable loads efficiently, rail provides another option for transporting freight across our country.  Continued improvements to intermodal infrastructure will enhance railroads’ ability to connect with the larger freight network, and will enhance the effectiveness of a comprehensive freight system.  Pursuing a multimodal approach will help create an environment conducive to establishing new routes to connect underserved regions, provide flexibility and greater shipping options for businesses, generate economic stimulus, and create jobs.

State Freight Advisory Committees and State Freight Plans, properly focused as suggested in our comments, can play an important role in ensuring that our national freight network efficiently integrates all sectors of our national transportation network.  TTD appreciates the Department’s efforts to provide states with guidance on developing their Freight Plans and Freight Advisory Committees, and we hope you will take our comments into consideration.

Sincerely,

Edward Wytkind
President

 

TTD Tells FAA Time to Raise the Bar on Aircraft Repair Outsourcing Safety

WASHINGTON, DC—The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) today urged federal aviation regulators to start holding contract aircraft repair stations, especially foreign-based facilities performing work on U.S. aircraft, to the highest levels of safety.

In comments submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would reform third-party repair station safety rules, TTD President Edward Wytkind told the agency that the proposal is an important step forward, but does not go far enough to achieve one level of safety.

“There is no question that this country has seen an epidemic of aircraft repair outsourcing with our air carriers now routinely shopping for lower wages and regulatory costs overseas,” said Wytkind. There are now 700 foreign repair stations certified by the FAA to work on U.S. aircraft. In 2008, major air carriers spent $4.25 billion, or 64 percent of their total maintenance budget, on outsourced repairs.

According to the DOT Inspector General’s office, of the 71 percent of heavy maintenance that is now farmed out by U.S. airlines, 27 percent of that work goes overseas where regulations often fail to live up to the standards imposed in America.

“Clearly it makes no sense to allow U.S. carriers to outsource ever expanding work to foreign stations that are not held to the same standards and oversight as those in the U.S.,” Wytkind said. “We are especially disappointed that the proposal ignores a recent congressional mandate to end the practice that allows mechanics at foreign stations to avoid drug and alcohol testing rules that are imposed on U.S. mechanics performing the exact same work.”

There are several provisions in the NPRM that TTD supports, such as implementing new training program requirements, allowing the FAA to deny certification to repeat offenders who demonstrate a lack of responsibility in properly running a repair station, and prohibiting individuals from skirting prosecution.

TTD’s full comments can be found here.

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CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, (O) 202.628.9262, (M) 703.395.2195

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 31 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

 

Austerity Measures Would Drive Us Over the Fiscal Cliff

“Too many in Washington are fixated on cutting public spending to balance the budget, not on how to put people back to work and get our economy moving.”  I couldn’t have said it better myself.  These are the words of 350 leading economists who offer our political leaders a solution to our anemic economy at www.jobsnotausterity.org.  If you do nothing else today, be sure to read this.

These economists write: “There is no theory of economics that explains how we can deflate our way to recovery.”

Let’s examine this point.  As TTD has advocated throughout the election and since the Great Recession began in 2008, one of the best ways to boost our productivity and efficiency, induce private investment, reduce unemployment, efficiently move freight and people, accelerate exports and innovations is to invest – with federal dollars, not fairy dust – in a long-term plan to modernize and expand our transportation system.  Austerity transportation budgets, as some on Capitol Hill have proposed, are not recovery plans.

These 350 economists also point out the severe threat to our economy of a “grand bargain” that gives tax breaks to millionaires; cuts Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; and hollows out vital job investment programs.

There is no room for bargaining here.

So, what alternatives do these economists propose?  “The government should invest in areas vital to our economy – to repair crumbling infrastructure, to build 21st century smart-grid, public transportation and renewable energy systems, and to create public and private sector jobs.”

We couldn’t agree more.

Austerity budgets will greatly delay the safety and efficiency benefits we could reap from a “NextGen” air traffic control system, and stall desperately needed airport capacity improvements.

Austerity budgets will end the transit and rail boom we are seeing nationwide and those cuts will have a disproportionate impact on working people who need more affordable commuter options, not draconian cuts that leave them stranded.

Austerity budgets will ensure another decade of dangerously decayed bridges and badly congested highways that cost our economy billions.

And finally, austerity budgets will make it impossible to double our exports and make needed investments in our freight transportation systems, neglected seaports and navigation channels.

The president’s plan to make this the generation that finally modernizes our transportation system by ‘nation building here at home’ is exactly the elixir our economy needs.  It is, as these economic scholars point out, part of the plan needed to ensure Americans aren’t “crippled by another lost decade of joblessness…”

As the signatories to JobsNotAusterity point out, “The budget hawks have the sequence backwards.  Public outlays for jobs and recovery come first, growth is restored, and [tax] revenues follow.  Budget cuts in a deep slump lead to a deeper slump.” Or in the words of The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: “The reason the fiscal cliff is so scary is that it’s an austerity crisis.”

This is the case we will be making to Congress.  To cut spending on vital job investments and reduce benefits for the elderly, sick and disabled, while at the same time coddling the super-rich with a tax code that is unfair, is not a plan that will restore America’s economic might.  It is a plan that will further hollow out the middle class – a plan that will be remembered for the lost opportunity to finally fix the broken funding system that can no longer support our dire transportation needs.

Join the movement for JobsNotAusterity.

 

 

President Obama Focuses Lame Duck Congress on Job Creation, Middle-Class Tax Relief

WASHINGTON, DC— Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind releases this statement following President Obama’s public remarks from the East Room today:

“President Obama couldn’t be more on target today when he laid out his priorities for middle-class job creation and tax relief as Congress considers legislation to avoid the so-called ‘fiscal cliff.’

“In revealing more about how he intends to spur job growth, the president said: ‘It’s a plan to put folks back to work, including our veterans, rebuilding our roads and our bridges, and other infrastructure.’

“We are committed to securing the bipartisan support needed to create millions of jobs by investing in our neglected transportation system. We also join the broader labor movement in opposing a ‘grand bargain’ on taxes and the federal budget that kills middle-class jobs, undermines Social Security and public health programs, and extends tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

Honoring Those Who Defend Our Nation

Photo courtesy of LiUNA

As Americans prepare to honor our veterans on November 12th for all they do to defend our nation, we must pledge to do more to help our military find good jobs upon returning home.

Far too often these heroes, who have chosen to risk their own lives to secure our freedom, come back to the harsh reality that there are no civilian jobs for them. They endure personal hardships that include being separated from families and friends and the reward for this selflessness cannot continue to be chronic unemployment.

There are approximately 185,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans still unemployed. And while many groups are working diligently to rectify this situation through training and jobs programs, these veterans are still seeing an unemployment rate 2 percent higher than the national average.

Unemployment is a concern for us all — veterans and non-veterans. And because many veterans go on to work in industries such as transportation, this situation is of particular concern to TTD and our 32 member unions.  We strongly support programs designed to welcome home our veterans with good middle-class transportation jobs.

We believe one of the best ways we can honor these brave men and women is to ensure that when they return to America they have a strong economy and ample job opportunities. A good way to start is through training programs such as Helmets to Hardhats, a building and construction trade union program that connects National Guard, Reserve and active-duty military members with career training and employment opportunities. Properly investing in our transportation systems to sustain and create millions of new jobs in our sector is another way to ensure our veterans will have good jobs to come home to.

Our veterans deserve to know that while they are fighting for our freedom, someone at home is fighting to secure ample opportunity for them to live the American dream upon their return. It is time now to move on President Obama’s plans to expand our middle class, create millions of jobs and ‘nation build at home’ by modernizing and investing in our aging transportation system.

We join the rest of our grateful nation in saying thank you to our veterans.

 

The Hill–Obama victory likely to preserve highway, Amtrak funding

[By Keith Laing of The Hill]

President Obama’s reelection is likely to ensure efforts to privatize Amtrak service and cut transportation funding will be unsuccessful.

Unsuccessful Republican nominee Mitt Romney had repeatedly pledged to eliminate government funding for Amtrak, and GOP vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget would have limited transportation funding to revenues generated by the federal gas tax.

“I think Amtrak is safe and surface transportation levels are safe,” Joshua Schank, president of the nonpartisan Eno Center for Transportation, said in an assessment of the election.

“I’d be very surprised to see the president and a Democratic Senate accept a cut” to transportation funding, Schank continued.

Schank said Obama’s win could make it more likely that negotiations on a deal on federal debt levels will begin soon, but he said lawmakers may leave transportation funding out of the mix.

“People may say you just passed MAP-21, you’re good until 2014,” Schank said of the $105-billion Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century bill lawmakers approved in the summer.

AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Ed Wytkind similarly declared that Obama’s reelection was a “good night for transportation.”

The AFL-CIO had endorsed Obama over Republican nominee Mitt Romney, and Wytkind said the GOP candidate’s stance on transportation issues was rejected by voters.

“You had a candidate for president who wanted to eliminate quote ‘government transit’ … you had a candidate who wanted to zero out Amtrak except for the parts that can make money,” Wytkind said. “I think that vision was clearly rejected.”

Wytkind said the TTD would fight to make sure transportation funding is not reduced in any debt deal that is negotiated by lawmakers in the coming months.

“Our job is to make the case that transportation funding can’t be a casualty in any sort of deal because the nation can’t sustain anymore cuts to transportation,” Wytkind said.

Schank said that although the election maintained a status quo of Democrats controlling the White House and the Senate and Republicans having power in the House, there would be changes to the transportation committees in Congress.

“[Sen. Jim] Inhofe [R-Okla.] leaving changes the dynamic at EPW,” Schank said of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

Inhofe helped shepherd the MAP-21 bill through the closely-divided Senate earlier this year. But he is facing a term-limit as ranking member when Congress convenes its 113th session next year.

“The crazy Boxer-Inhofe dynamic that seems to have produced legislation is going away,” Schank said.

The House Transportation Committee is likely to be taken over by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), who Schank said is “closer to leadership” than current chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.).

“I expect that committee to be active next year,” he said.

 

 

Transportation Workers Part of Historic Mobilization to Re-Elect President Obama, Put America to Work

WASHINGTON, DC— Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement following the re-election of President Barack Obama:

“We congratulate President Obama for his historic re-election.

“The American people re-elected a president who offers a vision to expand our middle class, create millions of jobs and ‘nation build at home’ by modernizing and investing in our aging transportation system. Transportation workers were proud to stand with President Obama as part of a highly motivated labor movement that helped secure last night’s victory.

“Throughout this campaign we made sure our members, and those that rely on our transportation system, understood what was at stake in this election and the vastly different views the candidates offered. Governor Romney sought to reward the super-rich with tax cuts they don’t need and impose drastic cuts in transportation investments while President Obama offered a plan to grow our economy from the middle out with transportation investments as key elements of his economic vision.

“Our members also understood that their ability to create and protect good, safe jobs was at risk in this election. President Obama said that giving more workers the power of collective bargaining is the clearest path to rebuilding the middle class. Gov. Romney vowed to eviscerate the very rights that empower Americans to fight for good wages, health care and retirement security.

“We are proud of the work we did this year to target the issues that motivated our members to be heard on Election Day.  We are pleased that our members responded by supporting a president who understands the important role of transportation in our economic future. Now we will deploy similar strategies in advocating an aggressive legislative agenda focused on long-term transportation investments, job creation and workers’ rights.

“Looking ahead we will work with the president to transform his vision into a long-term plan to expand the middle class. And as we have for more than two decades, we will seek out bipartisan support from lawmakers who share our view that America’s competitiveness and millions of middle-class jobs are at risk if we fail to invest long-term in our neglected transportation system.”

CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels
(O)202.628.9262 (M)703.395-2195
JenniferM@ttd.org

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

Time to Let American Passenger Service Agents Vote

AA DFW agent photo courtesy of American Airlines

Nearly 10,000 passenger service agents at American Airlines got some good news on Thursday – the union election they have been fighting for has formally been scheduled by the National Mediation Board (NMB) to begin on Dec. 4.  However, there is one thing we already know about American Airlines — it will use every frivolous legal tactic and delay mechanism available to prevent this election from ever happening.

This is a company that, in an effort to deny these workers a vote, previously attempted to apply a new voting standard retroactively, delaying the election.  Congress changed the law to increase the showing of interest required from 35% to 50% of eligible employees before an election could be held.  American claimed that the new standard should apply to an election petition filed by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) in December 2011, two months before the law changed.  Just this week, a Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejected this Hail-Mary legal theory, paving the way for a December election.  But not to be discouraged by the facts, American is now promising to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

This has got to stop.

These employees, already reeling from American’s bankruptcy filing, have faced threats of massive outsourcing, wage cuts and draconian work rule changes – the types of issues that would be negotiated in the presence of a strong union, not imposed by a belligerent management.  Of course, by blocking the organizing drive, American is counting on never having to negotiate with this group at all.

We will continue to join with @CWA4aa in fighting to protect the rights of these workers to vote.   If you want to join the fight, tell American to stop being un-American.

American’s passenger service agents have waited long enough.  Time to vote.

Rep. Paul Ryan, Soup Kitchens and Transportation

By Ed Wytkind

Earlier this week, the VP nominee Rep. Paul Ryan stopped at an Ohio soup kitchen for a campaign photo op to show his concern for those less fortunate than himself.  Only one problem with this display of caring as he rolled up his sleeves and did the dishes — the director of the soup kitchen said Ryan “barged in” without authorization after the food had been served and the dishes put away.  In other words, it was all for show.

It’s a small story, but an apt metaphor for the GOP nominee’s views and voting record.  For the record, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities reports that 62% of Ryan budget cuts reduce funding for programs that support low-income people.

And a close look at Ryan’s record shows him as someone who frequently says one thing but does another – often at the expense of working families.   Telling Americans in a national debate that he’ll create 12 million jobs doesn’t align with Ryan’s plan to cut transportation investments by almost half, sending half a million transportation workers to the unemployment line.  Ryan’s budget, which Gov. Romney endorsed as “marvelous,” would slash aviation, public transit, passenger rail, highways, bridges, ports and maritime by 46%.  That means longer commutes and airport lines, the end of public transit and Amtrak in many parts of America and even more severe highway, aviation and port freight bottlenecks.  So he is for job creation, but wants to cut investments that we know create and sustain good-paying jobs across our economy.

Paul Ryan can even disagree with Paul Ryan.  As Vice President Joe Biden pointed out during his debate  on Oct. 9, Ryan took a timeout from attacking President Obama’s stimulus bill just long enough to put in several requests in writing for federal money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to go toward his district.  So Ryan agrees with extremists in his own party but simultaneously puts in a request for evil economic recovery funds.  And we wonder why voter cynicism is on the rise?

And while he called Gov. Romney’s 47% comments “inarticulate,” at least Ryan’s views about the role of government are out in the open and don’t require a hidden camera.

What the soup kitchen episode teaches us is that voters should be wary of politicians whose rhetoric doesn’t align with actual deeds.  Showing up to wash dishes for the poor doesn’t negate the fact that Ryan championed an agenda that would result in a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the super rich.

Facts matter and can’t be skewed by a phony photo op.  Our members will know the facts when they vote Nov. 6.

-@EdWytkind

Obama Maritime Academy Investments Ensure Properly Trained Mariners

WASHINGTON, DC— Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) President Edward Wytkind issues this statement in support of the announcement made today by the U.S. DOT’s Maritime Administration to invest in Maritime Academies:

“Today’s announcement from the Obama Administration that it will invest an additional $2.3 million in America’s six state maritime academies is good news for the long-term viability of our maritime sector and for the men and women seeking the training and education to enter this profession.

“Maritime academies play an important role in ensuring a consistent supply of capable and well-trained merchant mariners, and the funds released today — in addition to $3.3 million invested in these academies last May — will help these schools succeed in their critical mission.

“President Obama and his team at the Department of Transportation clearly understand the important role that maritime plays in our economy, our national security and the need to provide first-class worker training in this highly complex sector of our transportation system. If the United States Merchant Marine is going to thrive and compete globally, our training programs must be second to none.

“It is, therefore, disappointing that the Republican candidate for president has a different view. As governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney proposed closing his state’s maritime academy in 2003 noting that ‘we don’t have much of a Merchant Marine in Massachusetts.’ Never mind that the Massachusetts Maritime Academy (MMA) is the oldest continuously operating academy in the U.S. (established in 1891) with a long history of producing some of the finest mariners, engineers and future leaders in the U.S. Armed Forces. Of course, Romney was making that statement as 50 cargo vessels were carrying supplies to Kuwait and other Persian Gulf nations supporting U.S. missions overseas, many out of Boston Harbor on ships crewed by MMA grads.

“If we close our nation’s maritime academies, as Gov. Romney wanted to do in his state, the U.S. Merchant Marine will disappear, the vital role it plays in defense of our country will likewise be eliminated, and thousands of good-paying jobs will be sent to foreign vessels. This is a strange position for someone who wants to be Commander-in-Chief and claims job creation is a top priority.”
CONTACT:  Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202.628.9262, (M) 703.395.2195

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

Attached Document or File This press release on TTD letterhead

With the Election Near, Transit’s Future is on the Line

Photo courtesy of the ATU

Photo courtesy of the ATU

There are 42 days left until the presidential election between a challenger who wants to slash federal transit funding by 46 percent and a president who, after just 28 days in office, invested $8.4 billion in transit as part of his economic recovery plan.

Make no mistake, there are huge differences between where Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama will take this country’s transportation system.

That’s why today we launched RomneyWrecksTheBus.com — not coincidentally on the same day that Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, are touring Ohio — yes, on a bus.  Ignore the fiction you’ll hear from their tour.  Instead, transit workers and riders should take a tour on RomneyWrecksTheBus — learn how a Romney Administration would ruin essential public transit services through reckless budget cuts and risky restructuring proposals.  Learn that Romney would sell off our transit network to private companies that are only there to run those services that make them a buck.  Everyone else can walk.

We know that the terms “infrastructure” and “efficient transportation systems” do not generate the same passion as other issues being debated in the presidential election.  But anyone who works in the transit industry needs to know the facts, such as 500,000 transit and other transportation jobs would be cut in the first year under the Romney/Ryan transportation budget plan, or that Romney and Ryan are serial privatizers and outsourcers and want to eliminate public sector bargaining rights.

At a time when transit ridership in the U.S. is soaring, America can’t let the job-killing, transit service-cutting agenda of Romney take root.  If you want to protect public transit and good middle-class jobs, please spread the word and watch this space over the coming weeks for more news on what this election means for you, your job, your transit service and America’s future.

You can keep up at TTD.org, and follow us @TTDAFLCIO and spread the word on Facebook.

-@EdWytkind

Before Mr. 1% Becomes Mr. Fixit, A Few Questions

The Romney flavor of the day is that the governor will fix Washington from the inside.  Bravo!  I think he’s on to something. But before you roll up your sleeves Mitt, I have a few questions.

Gov. Romney, will you work to oust obstructionists in the Senate who have killed President Obama’s American Jobs Act, which would have put thousands of transportation workers on the job already?  Who would you pick?  GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell perhaps?  How about Sens. Jim DeMint or Tom Coburn.

Gov. Romney, will you stare down House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and his Tea Party faithful and break the gridlock over a plan to finally provide long-term investment in our crumbling and aging transportation system?  Oh that’s right, your plan is to cut transportation investments by 46 percent, sack 500,000 jobs a year and leave our economy in tatters.  That won’t work.

Gov. Romney, on Day 1 will you tell your GOP Leadership friends that it’s time for Congress to stop being a tool of big business and extremist groups and stop blocking legislation that will help the middle class?  Stupid me – just the other day you insulted and wrote off 47 percent of the people as freeloaders who owe their lives to government.  Sort of tough now to say you’ll champion the cause of those tax-evading working people and seniors.

Gov. Romney, will you tell McConnell and Speaker John Boehner you want to work with them to break the logjam over proposals that will boost the earning power and working conditions of American workers?  Of course, that would require you to endorse the only formula for achieving that objective: empowering more people to form and join unions and use bargaining to improve their lives.  Oh wait, that’s a problem – you have such extreme views on the right to collectively bargain and organize new unions that you make McConnell and Boehner look like Mother Jones.  Scrap that idea.

Finally, Gov. Romney, will you elbow your way into the Capitol, tell the extremists in the House and Senate to stand down, and end the horrific gridlock over policy changes that will boost Americans’ retirement security?  You see, that requires you to be a champion of pensions, Social Security and Medicare.  Oh right, that one doesn’t work either – as governor you attacked pension benefits and funding, and as a candidate you’ve endorsed handing over Social Security to Wall Street and “saving” Medicare by ending it for anyone 55 and under.  Selling those views will put you in a fix.  Damn, you’re in a tight spot.

If this latest promise about fixing Washington was anything but a gimmick you would repudiate the extreme views on your side and perhaps devote a day (maybe two) to getting to know the 47 percent you so inappropriately dissed.

Most in America don’t want the “fixes” to Washington you’re peddling.  Those fixes will doom this generation to more tax policies that coddle millionaires, more inaction on modernizing a transportation system that is failing our economy and commuting Americans, more policy reforms that endanger retirement security and more political attacks on the rights of workers.

-@EdWytkind

About Mitt Romney’s 47% Gaffe

Much has been written, and rightly so, in the past 24 hours about Mitt Romney’s video-taped comments to rich donors claiming that 47% of Americans rely on government for “their lives.”

Attempts by Mitt Romney supporters to clarify and defend his comments are almost as breathtaking as the comments themselves.

Before I explain, let me remind you of the most damning Romney quote from the video:  “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.”

Former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu (let’s hope Sununu continues to be a top surrogate!), blamed Obama for the comments claiming the President is “trying to make class warfare a divider.”  Wow, so Romney declares 47 percent of Americans are lazy bums who depend on government for everything, but this episode is Obama’s fault?  Who knew?

Rep. Allen West (R-FL), a proud member of what I call the House Earth is Flat Caucus, said Romney’s comments were “clumsy” but then lectured us about how the insulting remarks were really about our democracy being at risk because of government dependency.  Not a word about how Romney insulted half of America including millions of seniors, many of whom live in his own state of Florida.

I am still scratching my head after reading and watching Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) defense of Romney.  “The way to get those 47 percent of Americans who are not income tax payers to become tax payers is to get them jobs.”  Ryan also said Romney’s remark was “inarticulate” but said the “point still stands.”  What point is that?  Clearly, the running mate doesn’t even understand why Romney’s comments are insulting.

As fact-checkers have pointed out repeatedly, nearly 2/3 of households that didn’t pay income tax paid payroll tax.  And the vast majority paid all or most of the other taxes such as state, local, sales, gas and property taxes.  But in case Romney and Ryan care to know, about half of the people who didn’t pay income tax in 2011 earned less than $16,812 and most of the others fall on the lower rung of the earnings ladder, according to Lucy Madison for cbsnews.com.  Said Madison:  “In other words, the poor are least likely to pay federal income taxes…”  Interestingly, even 27,000 tax filers who earned $533,000 or more paid no income taxes.  Shhhh, don’t tell Romney but a few of those might be his voters.

And the rest?  Millions are seniors who have worked 40 or more years and are now trying to enjoy some form of retirement.  Rep. Ryan, they probably don’t want a job after decades of paying taxes and playing by the rules – they just want politicians like Romney to respect them and stop calling them freeloaders.

Lastly, as I’ve written before, every American and every business has some dependency on government.  Our transportation system didn’t appear overnight – it cost generations of Americans massive public investments that were necessary to make America the world’s most powerful economy.  Our education system didn’t just appear one day – it was built by Americans for Americans who wanted their kids to have a chance at the American Dream.  And our public health system didn’t just drop out of the sky – no, it was paid for by the hard work of Americans who embraced the system decades ago as a way to keep Americans safe and healthy.  And users of that system aren’t deadbeats who “want more government dependency,” as Rep. Ryan says.  No, they want to use the public health system they built and paid for.

Gov. Romney’s comments in Boca Raton, Fla., confirm what we already know about him — he thinks you’re either extremely rich or dependent on government.  The truth is that everyone depends on some program run by government; not even billionaires own their own bridges, airports or highways.  No, we all built them. Even the 47 percent pitched in.

The Research on Romney/Ryan: It Isn’t Pretty

Did you know that Mitt Romney was a director of an airline that ran an illegal anti-union campaign against pilots while leading Bain Capital? Or that Paul Ryan championed and voted for a federal budget that slashes transportation funding 46 percent and destroys 500,000 jobs a year?

Check out our new presentation to see what, exactly, the Republican presidential nominee and his running mate think is the right plan for America’s transportation system and the economy it powers. You’ll find a long history of all-out assaults on unions, collective bargaining rights, worker protections, transportation investments and middle-class jobs.

Working Americans already know Romney and Ryan want to raise their taxes in order to give yet more tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires, but many aren’t aware of their plans to gut our publicly supported transportation system and infrastructure and make America uncompetitive.  A Romney/Ryan administration wouldn’t just slash federal infrastructure investments, but would impose their vision of privatizing and outsourcing good transportation jobs to the lowest bidders.

When you review this presentation, you’ll see exactly what is at stake and at risk in the presidential election.  See for yourself.

Romney Research Powerpoint in PDF

Warning: Steep Transportation Cuts Ahead

Photo courtesy of the IUOE

As Congress rushes to finish its official business for September and depart for another session of politicking, there’s something ugly lurking around the corner — sequestration.

You remember that ill-advised contingency plan that was supposed to scare the ‘Super Committee’ into identifying $1.2 trillion in deficit reductions? Thanks to the Republican obstructionist agenda, a standoff over cuts forced utter failure in decision making. As a result, $55 billion is set to be slashed from non-defense spending on Jan. 2, 2013.

Under the guise of solving our deficit woes, sequestration, or an automatic across-the-board cut, would hit transportation programs and the workers they support. Hard.

In fact, sequestration could cut transportation funding by as much as 10% next year. And because the cuts would be implemented three months after the fiscal year begins, the impact would be more devastating to our transportation system because it would be concentrated over 9 months.  While the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) will have the final say on how these cuts will be meted out, this is just a sampling of what we can expect:

  • Amtrak would be forced to make immediate cuts at a time when the carrier is experiencing record ridership and demands on its service are at an all-time high.
  • The Maritime Security Program, an important component of our nation’s military readiness, would see cuts that could jeopardize its foundation.
  • Cuts to the FAA budget could force control towers to close, causing some 2,000 air traffic controllers to be furloughed and other key FAA personnel could see roll-backs as well.
  • Local transit authorities would suffer from restricted access to a major source of funding under New Starts, inhibiting the growth of local transit options that increase riders’ mobility.

And while programs supported by trust fund dollars may not be directly slashed, you can bet all programs would suffer from sequestration. Keep in mind that a slashed budget results in fewer people capable of putting federal funds into the hands of those who make the projects happen. Thus, the remaining nickels and dimes that actually do get invested would be slow getting to our communities to help hire workers.

Unfortunately, this grand plan to cut our way to prosperity demonstrates a complete and utter disregard for what we know to be true — $1 billion of federal transportation investment creates an estimated 30,000 jobs. Instead of devastating programs that employ countless Americans and keep our nation moving, we should be making prudent investments in an industry proven to produce jobs.

As we await the concrete details that will be laid out by the OMB’s sequestration report there is one thing that is crystal clear: transportation workers in every mode will suffer if this misguided approach to fiscal policy is allowed to proceed.

Plan to Grow Amtrak Doesn’t Add Up

Photo courtesy of Amtrak

I’ve got to hand it to House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Republicans—they sure have nerve.

The day after Amtrak reported its 11th consecutive year of ridership growth, setting best-ever records for each month of 2012, Chairman John Mica (R-FL) held a hearing on Sept. 11—not to review the state of transportation security, but to rail against the evils of Amtrak’s “monopoly.”

The hearing title was, “A Review of Amtrak Operations Part 2:  The High Cost of Amtrak’s Monopoly Mentality in Commuter Rail Competitions.”

Just in case facts matter, Amtrak doesn’t have a commuter rail monopoly—in fact, it only has about 15 percent market share.

Of course, we quickly learned that this hearing had nothing to do with commuter rail monopolies.  Oh no, it was about amending U.S. rail laws to enrich private corporations that want to take over Amtrak’s most prized assets.

As I told the Committee today in my testimony, this hearing is really about pushing Mitt Romney’s plan for passenger rail:  “dismantle Amtrak, cost thousands of Amtrak workers their jobs, subject Amtrak riders to chaos and uncertainty and tragically, undermine the Railroad Retirement System.”  And if Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital approach wins the day, you can throw in a good dose of outsourcing too.

Amtrak’s opponents have paraded all sorts of ideas on Capitol Hill for one purpose—to create a legal and regulatory framework to disadvantage Amtrak.  These companies, some of them foreign, want a gift from lawmakers: to be able to provide passenger rail service without complying with rail laws, such as Railroad Retirement, which covers almost 1 million active and retired workers and family members.

Rep. Corrine Brown (D-FL) today summed it up pretty well: “This hearing is about good old-fashioned politics and a nod to the Republican jobs-killing platform.”  Ask any of Amtrak’s 20,000 employees who listen to all the anti-Amtrak bluster on Capitol Hill what they think.  They’ll tell you that Rep. Brown has it right – this is an assault on good middle-class Amtrak jobs.

My favorite myth from today’s hearing is that if you downsize and privatize Amtrak, jobs at Amtrak will “grow.”  As I told committee members today, this is “addition by subtraction.”

Transportation Committee Republicans must have learned math in the Mitt Romney School of Government where tax cuts for billionaires will help the middle-class, repealing Obamacare will make everyone healthier and voucherizing Medicare for everyone 55 & under will save Medicare.

-@EdWytkind

The Blueprint to Building a Lasting Economy

Photo courtesy of the IUOE

Tonight Americans will hear about moving forward with an economy that is “built to last” at the Democratic National Convention.  No doubt anyone watching will hear plenty about how the President has focused his energy on expanding the middle class – from saving the auto industry to ensuring America has the world’s finest transportation system and infrastructure.

This is not just election year rhetoric. As the President said two years ago, on Sept. 8, 2010, in Milwaukee:   “I have announced a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America’s roads and rails and runways for the long-term. I want America to have the best infrastructure in the world. We used to have the best infrastructure in the world, and we can have it again. We can make it happen.”

For transportation workers and users, there is a lot at stake in this election—re-electing a president with a transportation vision, or electing one who has endorsed the worst transportation budget in history that would ruin an already stressed transportation system and slash 500,000 jobs a year.

Come November, voters need to know exactly what President Obama has done to rebuild our economy and our neglected transportation infrastructure, including passing the single largest transportation stimulus package in history that created and saved 2.5 million jobs.  The President tried to do much more such as pass the American Jobs Act but it was blocked by the House and Senate GOP, including Rep. Paul Ryan.

As we said earlier this week, there are 10 things you should know about Obama’s transportation accomplishments.

All Americans, especially transportation workers, should know about these accomplishments.  They demonstrate the President’s commitment to transportation workers and to the users of our transportation system who grow tired of inaction as congestion and aging infrastructure choke our economy, stunt job growth and make America less competitive.

Indeed, as we heard in Tampa last week, Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan want to change things, but at what cost to America?

Be sure to review the 10 things about the President’s transportation achievements.  If you care about the economy, the mobility of people and goods, and the creation of middle-class jobs, the choice is obvious.

 -@EdWytkind

10 Things You Should Know About President Obama’s Transportation Accomplishments

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issues “10 Things You Should Know” as the Democratic National Convention kicks off today with a platform of how to Move America Forward.

There is no sharper contrast in this presidential election than in the value the President and his challenger, Gov. Mitt Romney, place on transportation and infrastructure investments and jobs.

“The President is pushing record investment in our transportation system as an engine for creating several million middle-class jobs and creating an economy built to last,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “In contrast, Gov. Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan would slash transportation investments 46 percent – cuts that would ruin our already stressed transportation system and eliminate 500,000 jobs a year.”

10 Things to Know:

The President enacted, over near-unanimous GOP opposition, an economic recovery plan in 2009 that was the largest transportation stimulus package our nation has ever seen. The plan created and saved 2.5 million jobs
 [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), Feb. 17, 2009]

The President proposed – and GOP leaders blocked – a job creation plan to repair and modernize15,000 miles of highways, improve 4,000 miles of rail and transit systems and build 150 miles of new runways.
[Statement of Administration Policy (SAP), H.R. 7 – American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012, Feb. 14, 2012.]

The President slowed the financial bleeding faced by public transit systems and their riders by giving them flexibility to use portions of capital funds to avoid damaging service and job cuts and expensive fare hikes.

[Supplemental Appropriations Act for 2009, 2012 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act]

The President blocked GOP House proposals to eliminate the federal transit funding program and force reckless privatization mandates on local transit providers. [Statement of Administration Policy (SAP), H.R. 7 – American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act of 2012, Feb. 14, 2012.]

The President’s appointees to the National Mediation Board replaced undemocratic union election rules with new rules that are empowering more airline and rail workers to form and join unions and bargain collectively.
[Federal Register May 11, 2010, p. 26062, Docket C-6964]

The President settled a Bush-era collective bargaining dispute with air traffic controllers and enacted legislative reforms that repair the broken collective bargaining system at the FAA and ensure “NextGen” modernization moves forward with labor-management cooperation and collaboration.
[FAA press release Aug. 13, 2009, “Preliminary agreement reached with air traffic controllers,” CNN, Aug. 13, 2009]

As part of his We Can’t Wait initiative, the President accelerated 7 nationally and regionally significant projects to modernize and expand 5 major ports in Jacksonville, Miami, Savannah, New York/New Jersey and Charleston.
[White House press release, July 19, 2012]

The President enacted family and medical leave protections for airline crews to care for their families.
[White House statement on enactment of the airline crew Technical Corrections Act, Dec. 21, 2009]

The President invested billions in high-speed trains and provided record budgets to modernize Amtrak.
[ARRA, Feb. 17, 2009]

The President rejected efforts to allow foreign ownership of U.S. airlines in negotiations over a new aviation agreement with the European Union, and won approval for the first-ever workers’ rights provision in an international aviation agreement.
[DOT press release, March 25, 2010; “EU-US sign second open skies aviation agreement,” Breaking Travel news, March 26, 2010]

 

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The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Contact: Jennifer Michels, jenniferm@ttd.org, 202-628-9262

 

Attached Document or File This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

Who Will Build It? Not Gov. Christie

WASHINGTON, DC—Edward Wytkind, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD) president, issued this statement in response to the anticipated keynote address by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at the Republican National Convention in Tampa:

“At tonight’s Republican National Convention, presidential candidate Mitt Romney will, I’m sure, be introduced by Gov. Chris Christie as a leader who can fix the economy and create jobs. We’ll hear many promises about Romney and Ryan creating 12 million jobs in four years.

“While everyone will be focusing on what Gov. Christie says about Romney in his keynote address, what’s more important is what is left unsaid. I guarantee we will hear little about Christie’s play book on job growth. Why? Because he has been a transportation job-cutting machine.

“When you hear the ‘We Built It’ theme coming from Tampa tonight, you must know that they can’t be talking about the Romney/Ryan or Christie visions for America.

“In fact, what you can be sure of is they will not build it.

“In 2010 Gov. Christie killed the largest infrastructure project in America – the train tunnel under the Hudson River – that would have put 51,000 people to work in his state, reduced gridlock and transformed the Northeast Corridor, one of the nation’s most important economic regions and transportation corridors. In fact, Christie and his fellow governors (Scott Walker of WI, John Kasich of OH and Rick Scott of FL) rejected strategically significant federal infrastructure investments in their states at the expense of 129,000 private and public sector jobs.

“Unfortunately, the Romney/Ryan team is quietly following in Chris Christie’s footsteps. You won’t hear about it tonight – or at any point in the next three days – but the Republican ticket has endorsed the worst transportation investment budget in history, vowing cuts of 46 percent. This disastrous plan would cost at least half a million Americans their jobs per year and would render this the first generation that leaves the next generation a worse transportation system than the one it inherited.

“You won’t hear from Christie or anyone else that Romney/Ryan have embraced a vision that will ruin America’s transit and rail systems, airports and air traffic control system, roads and bridges, and ports and maritime navigation channels, all of which are in need of billions in new investments, not irresponsible austerity plans. You won’t hear how these cuts will harm our economy, threaten safety, slash jobs and undermine our competitiveness.

“America’s transportation workers aren’t buying what Gov. Christie is selling tonight and neither will most Americans who know you can’t cut your way to a safe and modern transportation system and a thriving middle-class.”

###

The Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO, represents 32 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, motor carrier, highway, longshore, maritime and related industries. For more information, visit us at www.ttd.org or on Facebook and Twitter.

This Press Release on TTD Letterhead

Why Does Paul Ryan Want to Auction Off Our Airlines to Foreign Interests?

Photo courtesy of Jay Selman

Airline employees, remember this close call just six years ago?

The date was May 18, 2006.  The House of Representatives was having a debate about a bizarre Bush Administration proposal to let U.S. airlines be controlled by China and other foreign interests.

The Department of Transportation under Bush proposed a change in federal aviation policy to allow foreign interests to have control over U.S. airlines that they invest in.  In other words, under the Bush-proposed rules politicians would knowingly let foreign interests control the world’s largest aviation industry and the millions of jobs it supports.

We condemned this idea as another sad case of elected officials embracing reckless policy that sends good jobs abroad.

The good news is that a majority in the House rejected the Bush proposal – with some notable exceptions.  While 291 members voted against it, including 97 of his fellow Republicans, Rep. Paul Ryan voted in favor of permitting foreign takeover of our airlines.  Yes, the same Paul Ryan selected to be Gov. Mitt Romney’s running mate.  The same Paul Ryan who travels through states such as Ohio – where trade policy really matters – and talks tough on China but votes with foreign lobbyists on the House floor.

Airline crews already face the threat of job losses from globalization run amok.  Airline mechanics already see 71 percent of all aircraft heavy maintenance outsourced, 27 percent of that to foreign repair stations.  Customer service agents also constantly face threats of outsourcing.  And this is happening without adopting Paul Ryan’s view that we should give away control of U.S. airlines to foreign interests preying on our marketplace and our jobs.

This issue matters and airline workers should be wary of candidates for President and Vice President who talk tough on trade with China but have a demonstrated record of supporting offshoring of American jobs.  These policy choices matter – aviation is a driver of our economy and of middle-class job creation.  Why would we want to give it away to foreign bidders who will control our airlines and make sure their workers, not ours, crew the flights, repair the planes and serve the customers?  Ask @MittRomney and @PaulRyanVP.

It also is a matter of national security; allowing foreign interests to control our airlines undercuts the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, a program relied on by the military to transport troops and supplies on commercial aircraft in times of war and conflict.

Airline workers beware.  The future of U.S. airline jobs is on the ballot this fall. Stay tuned – much more to come on MoveAmerica about the stakes in this election.

-@EdWytkind

Someone Please Enroll Mr. Romney in Economics 101

I’ve been listening to some absurd attacks this week by Mitt Romney and his surrogates against President Obama – the latest a claim that Obama is saying Henry Ford didn’t build Ford Motors or Papa John didn’t build Papa John’s, the government did.

Here is what the President actually said:  “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.”

The point the President was making is that private business, big or small, cannot thrive without public investments including investment in all forms of transportation.  These things cost money and without those public resources the private sector couldn’t thrive.  This point is pretty obvious to anyone – that is except Mr. Romney and his campaign, which will say virtually anything to deflect attention away from Swiss bank accounts, tax returns shrouded in secrecy, and the Bain founder’s record of outsourcing American jobs.

Let’s do some basic economics.

The economy cannot succeed without a modern and efficient transportation system.  Today, transportation accounts for one in ten dollars spent in the economy.  Pretty simple idea here.  If you can’t move products or people safely and efficiently by ground or air our economy comes to a screeching halt.

Transportation is one of the most important wealth creators in our economy and even Mitt Romney, the self-proclaimed expert on everything about the economy, should understand this unambiguous fact.   When passenger rail and transit systems get people to and from work or meetings, they are keeping the arteries of the economy healthy.  When our air transportation system flies more than 600 million passengers this year, our businesses will thrive.  Without well-funded and modern seaports and navigation channels our exports are choked and our system of commerce fails.  When our freight railroads, trucking companies and manufacturers are humming our economy is humming.  Sort of Economics 101.

Bottom line is this Mr. Romney:  Of course Bill Gates built Microsoft but he didn’t build the transportation systems, public schools and public health systems his company has relied upon for decades.  And no single company built the Internet.  Actually, as the President correctly said, massive government research and investment got that train rolling.

President Obama gets it.  Mr. Romney clearly doesn’t.  And not even vicious attacks like the embarrassing tirade by John Sununu will cloud anyone’s vision about what is really going on here.

Mr. Romney, perhaps a refresher course on the role of public investments in the history of the American economy is in order.

-@EdWytkind

Two Transportation Visions on Collision Course

At least one governor appreciates what transportation investments can do for his state.

Governor Jerry Brown of California stood side by side with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the Port of Oakland earlier this week, building on the new momentum behind the state’s ambitious high-speed rail plans.  Fresh off the actions of state legislators who withstood a tidal wave of right-wing opposition by approving funding for high-speed rail, the Governor will now preside over the most ambitious transportation modernization initiative in America.

Despite the rhetoric and unrelenting opposition from opponents of this plan (they’ve tried to turn high-speed rail into a four-letter word), these investments will make California the envy of the nation as travel convenience soars, trip times plummet, half a million people will work, and a new generation of tourists will converge on the Golden State.

When Governor Brown signed the appropriations bill into law, he bucked a recent unusual trend of governors (all Republicans if you’re wondering) eschewing job-creating transportation projects to score points with their party base.  Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Rick Scott of Florida, John Kasich of Ohio, and Chris Christie of New Jersey have all wasted opportunities for massive investments in their transportation systems.  These governors have been auditioning in front of extremists who forget that both Democrats and Republicans rallied behind historic infrastructure investments in the last century that came to define America as the world’s greatest economy.  Clearly, we have two transportation visions on a collision course.

Christie did the unthinkable:  he killed 51,000 jobs by ending a project to build a train tunnel under the Hudson River that everyone but the Governor knows is critical to the economic future of New Jersey and the entire Northeast corridor.  Christie and his fellow GOP governors have dealt a severe blow to their states’ transportation systems and along the way killed 129,000 jobs.

Apparently their knowledge of American history pales in comparison to Governor Brown’s, whose state will reap the benefits of a modernized rail transportation system:  600,000 jobs to build the system and 450,000 permanent jobs; reduced congestion and air pollution, and 13 million fewer barrels of foreign oil consumed annually.

Landmark U.S. infrastructure achievements were built on visions ahead of their time, dating back to President Lincoln’s funding of the intercontinental railroad in the midst of the civil war.  These things don’t just happen – they require political leaders in both parties who think about what their generation is going to leave for the next one.  Right now this generation is leaving behind a crumbling transportation system.

Voters, beware of governors who build political careers at the expense of their state’s economy.  Fortunately, California Governor Jerry Brown has chosen a different path.  When given the chance, let’s hope voters choose safe and modern transportation systems – and smart investments that create good jobs – over political career-building in governors’ mansions.

Want to hear more?  Listen to the discussion I had with Charles Showalter on TheUnionEdge.

-@EdWytkind

Surface Transportation Jobs Bill on the Clock

TTD President Ed Wytkind

The clock is ticking on our economy.

There are only 9 days left before current funding for transit and highways expires and time is running out for Congress to pass a transportation jobs bill as our economy teeters. Reports from this week’s meetings of conferees say certain leaders are now gauging whether or not the House GOP can “accept” the compromises reached to move this jobs bill forward.

The question is, can the American public and transportation workers accept anything less.

These House members, leaders of the Earth is Flat Caucus, think it is a mistake to invest in transit systems, roads and bridges and to put people to work in the process. Now I’m not Christopher Columbus, but let’s give these folks a compass and direct them toward the facts:  Every analysis of our surface transportation system comes to the same conclusion — we are not investing enough, and gridlock in our passenger and freight networks is the result.

A simple extension of the program, an idea being floated as an alternative to a real jobs bill, should be rejected because it won’t fix the enormous funding shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund that will be emptied in a matter of months.  There are nearly 14 million Americans unemployed and thousands more could join them if this bill is not passed.  At a time of growing demand transit systems are laying off thousands.  And construction worker unemployment alone is at 14.2 percent, a rate that would drop if this bill is passed.

At a time when 80 percent of public transit systems are cutting back on service, raising fares and/or laying off workers, we hardly need transportation budget austerity measures – like those embodied in the Romney-Ryan budget – that bend the unemployment curve in the wrong direction.

Senators with virtually perfect conservative and liberal voting records alike want a transportation jobs bill.  House Democrats and President Obama want this bill.  The Chamber of Commerce wants this bill.  Businesses of all sizes want this bill.

Yet this point seems lost on the Earth is Flat Caucus which is confusing cutting government waste with making long-term investments in safe and modern transit and rail systems, highways, bridges and ports and waterways.  Cutting a pet program of the right or left is predictably what politicians do to score points with supporters.  Letting our transportation system fall apart is what irresponsible politicians do.  Obviously some want to undermine President Obama’s re-election at all costs and don’t want to give the President a chance to sign a good jobs bill into law.  But can’t we put election politics on hold and do what’s best for the country for about two minutes?  Trust me – there are plenty of other issues to argue about for the next five months.

The nation can’t wait any longer for this legislation.  The House GOP needs to rein in those who are motivated to kill this bill, make a deal with the Senate and send a transportation jobs bill to the President for his signature.

-@EdWytkind

Aviation’s Unsung Heroes

Photo courtesy of NATCA

Since the Wright brothers completed their first powered flight in 1903, aviation has captured the public’s imagination.

While the entire public and private sector aviation workforce works in unison to operate and maintain the world’s safest air transportation system, the unsung heroes of the sky are often the air traffic controllers who safely guide millions of flights a year inside the world’s most complex and complicated airspace system.

Tomorrow is the National Air Traffic Controllers Association’s (NATCA) 25th anniversary.  We invite you to join TTD in thanking NATCA’s 20,000 controllers, engineers and other safety professionals for all the hard work they do under the radar, for maintaining America’s air safety record while using 1950s era technology.

Founded in 1987, the union represents 17 different bargaining units from DOD controllers at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point to nurses in several FAA regional Aerospace Medicine offices to budget, policy analysts and accountants who work on the FAA budget.

Throughout its history, NATCA has been both a fierce advocate on behalf of its members and an unwavering voice in support of aviation safety.  When some in Congress wanted to recklessly outsource air traffic control to the lowest bidder, NATCA simply said “not on our watch” and waged the fight that had to be fought — and won.  When the previous Administration refused to engage in good faith collective bargaining and implemented terms that suited only management, NATCA never wavered.  The union explained to the public why collective bargaining mattered and why safety and staffing were at risk when the rights of front-line workers were ignored.

Today, the policies of the previous Administration have been reversed and the law governing collective bargaining at the agency has been fixed.  And through all the fights and battles, NATCA has always been an effective advocate on behalf of air traffic control investment and technology improvement.  “Safety Above All” is more than a motto or a slogan for NATCA – it is how they go about their business every day.

Last year alone the men and women who staff control towers, control centers, TRACON facilities, and flight service stations made it possible for 134 million flight operations.  Every day they work to make sure more than 750,000 flyers get to where they need to go.  It doesn’t matter if you are behind the controls of a two-seater high-wing flying solo, or piloting the heavy iron with 200 onboard, controllers are there to handle any situation, any distress call.

So, next time you walk off an airplane, or perhaps land your own aircraft, take a moment to gaze up at that tower and remember the air traffic controllers who brought you in for that landing, those down below studying the radar, and everyone supporting them behind the scenes.

Thanks NATCA.  For all you do, we salute you.

‘Earth is Flat’ Caucus Threatens Transportation Bill

A move by a House Republican amidst surface transportation funding bill negotiations shows yet again why most Americans are shaking their heads in disgust and preparing to clean house this fall by electing members of Congress who care about the middle class.

As conferees haggle over the much-needed surface transportation funding bill, Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is preparing a motion to instruct them to cut at least $17 billion from the Senate’s recommendation on how much to spend on surface transportation in FY2013.  The original proposal included FY2012, which would have ended mass transit funding immediately and highway funding shortly thereafter.  Both would cost hundreds of thousands of jobs at a time when the jobless rate is still too high.

How is this fiscal responsibility?

Those who support the Broun motion must live on a flat earth.  They would be disregarding all we know about how infrastructure spending moves our economy, creates jobs and boosts our competitiveness with the rest of the world.  Check the math – if you spend $1 billion on transportation you keep 25,000-30,000 people working.  This proposal is just one more misguided attempt to curb spending by a junior member of Congress without any serious recognition of the consequences of this obvious slash-and-burn approach to policy-making.

If Broun had been around in the 1950s we’d probably still be talking about the vision of one day having an interstate highway system.

This proposed spending cut looks like the ugly stepchild of the House version of surface transportation reauthorization.  Remember the attempt by House Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee to eliminate the Mass Transit Account?  You know, the Mass Transit Account signed into law in 1983 by that liberal Ronald Reagan?  Fortunately, that proposal never made it to the House floor.

The Broun funding cut proposal is advocated by the Heritage Action group.  What does Heritage have against keeping our roads and bridges safe?  Why do they want to end our public transportation program?  Perhaps they should leave serious transportation issues to the transportation professionals before more working Americans change their Facebook status to “unemployed.”

When we talk about billions of dollars in spending, it can be difficult to put that into perspective.  So let’s break it down into some real world examples.  If studies show that most of our seniors live in rural areas and many of those are disabled, then our smaller towns and cities desperately need public transportation to get those folks to the grocery store, to medical care and to simply give them independence.  Meanwhile in our major metropolitan areas, multiple modes of transportation are essential to reducing gridlock and stress levels while boosting productivity and the economy.  Who can argue against the benefits of parents spending one extra hour in the evening with their kids instead of waiting on train platforms when commuter services are cut, or at the bus stop or inching toward home in traffic?

The trickle-down effect from spending on transportation is an absolute, real world example of how we must spend money to make money, and how we must invest in our future.  An investment in transportation is an investment in our people.  Let’s make wise choices.  The Broun motion isn’t one of them.

-@EdWytkind

Steelworkers: Do You Really Know Who They Are?

The United Steelworkers (USW) union is celebrating a milestone today in Cleveland — it is turning 70 years old.

I’m willing to bet that many in America pass by a steelworker every week without knowing they do more than smelt, mine for ore and hammer metals; they are in industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals and nursing.

This group of 1.2 million active and retired members is among the largest industrial unions in the U.S., born in Pennsylvania in 1942. But its origin really goes back to the late 1800s when mill workers who saw their wages cut at Carnegie Steel engaged in strikes that were eventually broken up by Pinkerton detectives.  Steelworkers fought back, and some died, in those early clashes with management.  They understood then what we know today:  there is nothing more empowering on the job than a strong union.

USW members today benefit from those early union pioneers.  And the rest of the economy benefits from their current tireless efforts that help all of us, such as fighting unfair trade policies and practices, knocking down hurdles to increase our exports and strengthening our Buy America laws.  USW also thinks outside of the box on forging partnerships with eco-friendly groups to create new green union jobs in America.

When it comes to job creation, USW International President Leo Gerard has been vocal about investing in small businesses, passing a surface transportation funding bill, and putting more resources into manufacturing to put more Americans back to work.  Leo is challenging our nation to start building things again and to think big about how we boost an industrial base that has been on a steady decline as our global competitors build and expand theirs.

It is fitting that USW members today are at the Music Hall in the Cleveland Public Auditorium to celebrate this milestone because it was seven decades ago that the union was founded in that very location.  Enjoy and be proud today USW member! Transportation labor salutes you for all you do to MOVEAmerica.

-@Ed Wytkind

 

Maritime Industry Gets Its Day

Photo: International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots

Being a bus driver or pilot or machinist might not sound like a dangerous profession to some, but at TTD, we know that for the vast majority of transportation workers hazardous working conditions are a way of life.

Maritime and port workers certainly understand this.  They not only battle the elements and the daily rigors of the job, but also federal funding shortfalls that have resulted in delayed port improvements, un-dredged navigation channels and chronic under-investment.

Ships and waterways are never quite as visible to the public eye as congested airports and highways, crowded transit and rail systems, and aging bridges, but funding for our maritime industry belongs right alongside these issues at the top of our transportation priority list. That’s why TTD fights to direct more investment to maritime needs and why it supports a strong, privately owned U.S.-flag fleet protected by cargo preference laws and the Jones Act. The men and women who serve our nation at sea and in our ports have earned our support.

That is why we are honoring the hard-working men and women of America’s maritime industry as part of our celebration of National Maritime Day, which has been observed since 1933 in recognition of the nation’s merchant mariners and the work they do to make America strong.

This is a great opportunity to recognize a sector of our transportation industry that often gets overlooked.

Every day American merchant mariners make sacrifices and take risks for an industry that’s crucial to this country’s economy and security. We are proud to stand by them.

-@EdWytkind

Why Must 13 Die Daily on the Job?

TTD President Edward Wytkind

When we think of countries with the most hazardous working conditions, grueling 14-hour work days that put a worker’s own safety—as well as the public’s—at risk, we usually envision some sweatshop on the other side of the world.

Unfortunately, when it comes to unsafe job sites, the United States of America has plenty to fix.  In a nation that prides itself on protecting civil rights, guarding against exposure to hazardous substances and ensuring safe food and drinking water, 13 workers still die on the job on average every day.  That’s 13 too many.

Another 50,000 Americans die from occupational diseases every year. Let me put that into perspective—50,000 is roughly equivalent to the populations of Ames, Iowa;  Grand Forks, N.D., and Pine Bluff, Ark., according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data.   We must do better.

By the way, this problem also costs money.  According to the 2012 edition of Death on the Job:  The Toll of Neglect just published by the AFL-CIO, the cost of job injuries and illnesses is estimated to be $250-$300 billion per year.  To add insult to injury, literally, the AFL-CIO report says the number of workers killed or injured in this country is greatly underestimated and underreported.  While more than 3.8 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported in 2010, in reality, that number is actually 7.6 million at a minimum.

A large portion of the problem is in transportation.  Workplace fatality rates per 100,000 workers averaged 3.6% in 2010 for all industries while that rate more than triples in transportation to 13.7%.  We have much to do to bring down job injury and death rates in our sector.

Too many transportation workers are chronically fatigued and our rules often fail to provide uniform standards such as the air cargo carve-out  in our pilot fatigue rules.  Too many transportation workers are falling through the cracks of coverage and enforcement of safety rules.  Too many transportation workers work in unsafe and often inhumane conditions.  Some transportation workers find themselves fighting against an outsourcing epidemic that threatens safety.  We don’t even have consistent rules ensuring that school bus  transportation is as safe as it can be for passengers and drivers.

The list of transportation safety risks is too long and complex for a single blog.  And to be sure we will always face a torrent of corporate lobbying against sensible safety regulations.  But we cannot stand passively by.  We must, as the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights suggests, “speak truth to power” and defend a basic human right in this country—the right to a safe and healthy work environment.

-Ed Wytkind
@EdWytkind