ALPA Champions and the U.S. Congressional Elections

By ALPA Government Affairs Department Staff

Election day has come and gone, but this election is far from over. As Air Line Pilot went to press, numerous House and Senate races across the country have yet to be called—not to mention the runoff elections that will take place in 2021.

ALPA member F/O Kai Kahele (Hawaiian) won a decisive victory in Hawaii’s second district. Rep.-elect Kahele (D) is currently the majority floor leader of the Hawaii State Senate. An Air Force veteran, he also serves as a lieutenant colonel in the Hawaii Air National Guard. The Association looks forward to working with Kahele to advance aviation safety and the piloting profession.

ALPA pilots can be confident that Congress will remain pilot-partisan. While a few of the Association’s champions didn’t win reelection, many more were victorious and will be coming back to Washington, D.C., next year. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), this year’s ALPA Pilot Partisan of the Year, won his reelection campaign in one of the most competitive districts in the country. Fitzpatrick has been a tireless advocate for aviation safety and security, introducing the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Safety Act, which mandates the installation of secondary cockpit barriers on commercial passenger airliners, and the Cargo Flight Deck Security Act. He has stood with ALPA time and time again as the Association fights to protect pilot careers.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D), last year’s Pilot Partisan of the Year award winner and chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, also won his closely contested race in Oregon. DeFazio has been one of ALPA’s strongest champions in the House. He’s introduced and cosponsored numerous bills during his tenure, fighting against the flag-of-convenience business model, demanding that U.S. Open Skies agreements be enforced, and protecting safety and security on the flight deck. As ALPA’s strongest ally on extending the payroll support program to protect pilot jobs, he introduced his own bill in September that demanded more relief for airline employees. DeFazio is perhaps the most influential individual in Washington when it comes to transportation policy and protecting workers across all sectors, and ALPA is grateful he’ll be returning to the House.

Other pilot partisans returning to Washington include

  • Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and an experienced general aviation pilot.
  • Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), the chair of the House Aviation Subcommittee and an ALPA champion.
  • Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), sponsors of the Protecting Employees and Retirees in Business Bankruptcies Act, which would protect workers’ wages and benefits when businesses declare bankruptcy.
  • Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), who introduced the Safe Skies Act, which would ensure that all pilots get appropriate rest.
  • Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), an outspoken advocate for keeping two pilots on the flight deck and a licensed commercial pilot with multiengine and instrument ratings.
  • Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), the sponsor of the Cabin Air Quality Act, which would protect pilots from hazardous fume events on the flight deck.
  • Rep. John Katko (R-NY), a longtime ALPA champion who works on behalf of pilots on both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.
  • Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), a lead sponsor of the Fair and Open Skies Act, which would prohibit the flag-of-convenience business model.
  • Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE), a former Air Force general and consistent supporter of ALPA priorities.
  • Rep. Chuy Garcia (D-IL), the lead on ALPA’s cargo security bill mandating a hardened cockpit door for all-cargo aircraft.
  • Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), who’s championed nearly every ALPA priority during his tenure and leads ALPA’s safety agenda in the Commerce Committee.

These members will be joined by a multitude of new faces in Congress come January. In fact, 16,000 ALPA pilots may have new representation in Washington, D.C. This means ALPA must work hard and quickly to get those new legislators up to speed on its issues and priorities. Expect Calls to Action and education efforts to ramp up in early 2021 at the start of the 117th Congress.

This article was originally published in the November 2020 issue of Air Line Pilot.

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