ALPA on Capitol Hill

As an advocate for pilots and all union members in the halls and offices of the U.S. Congress, ALPA continues to make its mark.

By ALPA’s Government Affairs Department and Air Line Pilot staff
Air Line Pilot, April 2003, p. 17

ALPA’s legislative and political program, managed through the union’s Government Affairs Department, has two distinct but related missions," says Paul Hallisay, Department director. "The first is to pursue ALPA’s goals on matters before the U.S. government, especially the Congress; and the second is to oversee ALPA’s political action program, ALPA-PAC."

ALPA's Government Affairs Department will be working in many areas to preserve ALPA members' interests, such as to ensure that the ALPA’s position on cabotage is upheld and that any move to change the foreign ownership rules for airlines follows the guidelines that ALPA established a number of years ago.

ALPA’s legislative efforts in Congress are greatly enhanced through members’ participation in ALPA-PAC and in political campaigns of the union’s allies on Capitol Hill. Any success that ALPA has in promoting its legislative goals and initiatives depends upon the support the Association is able to muster among the 535 members of Congress. ALPA-PAC is one of the union’s most important tools in building that support.

The following summarizes ALPA’s legislative and political activities during the 107th Congress, including those that resulted from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and looks ahead to the challenges ALPA’s lobbyists expect to face in the 108th Congress, which began in January.

"While ALPA will continue to pursue unfinished business from the last Congress," Hallisay declares, "Congress has changed significantly and that will affect the way ALPA works on Capitol Hill. That change is the make-up of the new Congress as a result of last fall’s federal elections. On Election Day, the Republican party won control of the Senate and increased its majority in the House of Representatives. And a Republican will occupy the White House for at least another 20 months." He notes that "the last Congress began with Republicans controlling both sides of the Capitol, but that didn’t last long. Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont became an independent in June 2000, and began caucusing with the Democrats. That gave the Democrats a technical majority in the Senate, as well as all the Committee chairmanships, and the right to set the legislative agenda during the remainder of the 107th Congress. This time no one seems to be changing party affiliation. So we’re going to have to live with this political environment through the 2004 elections."

Hallisay warns, "The atmosphere on Capitol Hill for unions and for pilots is as bad as I have ever experienced in more than 25 years; as bad as it was in the early 1980s, after deregulation of the U.S. airline industry, when ALPA was battling Frank Lorenzo." Much antipathy for labor unions exists throughout government. Republican decision-makers are very frustrated with their inability to control the airline industry, and the only area where they feel they can make a mark is with labor.

As a result of this shift in operational control in the new 108th Congress, ALPA’s strategy on Capitol Hill will be more defensive than offensive. The Association is not in a position to have a laundry list of things it wants to advance, but it does have to work hard to protect the gains it has made to date. ALPA’s top legislative priority is to make sure that a compulsory arbitration bill, or any other congressional attempt to dilute collective bargaining rights, does not pass.

The Coalition for Economic Strength Through Aviation (CESTA), the group spearheaded by the Air Transport Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, is working with the new Congress to gain support for its "reform" proposal to impose binding arbitration in airline bargaining. Although a bill has not yet been introduced in the 108th Congress, ALPA expects one soon.

ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, has asked ALPA members to support, and to participate in, their union’s efforts to defeat such legislation by contacting their airlines’ CEOs to urge them to drop support for bills designed to ruin collective bargaining and to cease funding CESTA. The Association has also called on ALPA members to contact their congressional representatives to oppose this effort of the air carriers.

ALPA’s attempts to thwart this anti-union action in Congress may include a rally in Washington, D.C. this summer when, and if, the time is right; but the Association’s efforts go well beyond its members. This struggle is also a legislative priority of the entire AFL-CIO. Hallisay says, "If the Republican-led Congress tries to move binding arbitration legislation, the labor movement will mount a unified, aggressive campaign to defeat it. And because of the labor sensitivities about this controversial issue, any legislation will need 60 votes to pass the Senate; that is the number of votes needed to halt a filibuster on the Senate floor. (See "The Airline Labor Dispute Resolution Act," page 20, for 107th Congress action.)

Another major concern for the Department this year is pilot pensions. With defined benefit pension plans, particularly in the airline industry, facing an unprecedented funding crisis, Capt. Woerth has directed the ALPA Retirement and Insurance Department and The ALPA R&I Committee to develop a proposed universal solution. The Government Affairs Department will then coordinate and implement a plan to enlist maximum congressional support to secure a legislative remedy that can be applied to all ALPA carriers in need.

Hallisay observes that some of the adverse issues that ALPA faced during the 107th Congress were contained. Besides the compulsory arbitration bill, other anti-union issues are still potentially threatening. Rumors of so-called paycheck protection, talk about changing LM-2 reporting requirements for unions, and proposals to raise the age 60 mandatory retirement age for airline pilots are always circulating on Capitol Hill. ALPA’s concern is that the leaders of either the House or the Senate might try to include these issues as amendments to other bills, such as appropriations or budget legislation, without ALPA’s having the opportunity to extract them. So the Department must remain vigilant about monitoring all legislation.

As an example, late last year, an effort was made to include a provision in the Transportation Appropriations Bill to exempt cargo aircraft from being required to have new, hardened cockpit doors. ALPA worked to defeat this effort, and, as Hallisay says, "We thought we had the matter resolved. But the provision resurfaced in February 2003, in an omnibus government funding bill, which, under congressional rules and procedures, made it impossible for us to get it amended."

The Department will also be working in many other areas, including its ongoing efforts to ensure that the Association’s position on cabotage is upheld and that any move to change the foreign ownership rules for airlines follows the guidelines that an ALPA pilot committee established a number of years ago.

Pilots can help ALPA achieve its legislative and political goals on their behalf in two important ways. The first is by supporting ALPA-PAC. PAC participation is even more important now that "soft money" has been outlawed. ALPA supported this change and has always used only voluntary PAC contributions from its U.S. members to fund political activities. The new campaign laws will level the playing field somewhat, as most airline companies have traditionally used primarily "soft money" to fund their political activism.

The year 2002 was a great one for ALPA-PAC. In fact, it set a 27-year fundraising record, breaking the million-dollar mark for the first time. Every ALPA pilot group reported an increase in participation, and the average donation was $132. PAC checkoff—payroll deduction—is in place for 14 ALPA pilot groups and accounted for 82 percent of the total revenues in 2002. In announcing the 2002 results, ALPA-PAC’s chairman, Capt. Woerth, said, "We launched a major campaign over the past few years to broaden membership participation in our PAC program and these outstanding numbers prove the success of these efforts. We are gratified that our members recognize the importance of ALPA-PAC and have responded with their generous financial support."

ALPA will continue to do everything possible to keep the Airline Labor Dispute Resolution Act from becoming law and to work with the other airlines, the AFL-CIO, and the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department against this bill.

Because of the generous support of its contributors, ALPA-PAC was able to provide more than $1.5 million in financial assistance to 260 candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives from both political parties in the November 2002 federal elections. Capt. Woerth reminded all members that the challenges facing the airline industry, and pilots in particular, make a well-funded, fully supported political action program more important than ever, and urged all U.S. ALPA pilots to continue during these difficult times to support the PAC to the maximum extent possible. He concluded, "That’s the best way to help get more pro-pilot, labor-friendly candidates to Congress."

The second way ALPA members can help advance the Association’s legislative agenda is by responding to the Department’s grassroots legislative Action Alert. ALPA pilots are asked to contact their federal legislators, supporting ALPA’s activities on a legislative issue whenever the Department determines that grassroots activity will benefit the Association’s overall legislative effort. These Action Alerts are posted on the ALPA website,, providing a sample message, information about the issue, and a link that enables members to identify their Senators and Representatives and send messages to them electronically.

In some cases, the Department also sends mailings to ALPA members to educate them about legislative matters and enlist their grassroots participation. Such a mailing was recently sent to all active ALPA members, focusing on the compulsory arbitration issue and urging pilots to write their Members of Congress to express their strong opposition to this ill-conceived, anti-labor proposal.

Hallisay’s conclusion for the months ahead on Capitol Hill: "ALPA will be challenged as never before to preserve what it has achieved and to protect against further attacks on our members. This challenge will require the full participation of everyone both outside and inside the Washington, D.C., beltway to make sure the piloting profession is preserved."

Highlights from the 107th Congress, including current year updates, follow:

Activities related to 9/11

On Sept. 12, 2001, the ALPA Government Affairs staff began working with U.S. airlines to develop and enlist support for an airline aid package to help carriers adversely affected by the terrorist attacks. The Air Transportation Safety and System Stabilization Act was signed by President George W. Bush on September 23, giving $5 billion in direct aid to airlines ($4.5 billion to passenger carriers, $500 million to cargo-only carriers) and setting aside $10 billion for loan guarantees.

ALPA also worked with its allies in the aviation industry and the labor community to craft and generate support for legislation to provide enhanced safety and security for the nation’s air transportation system. ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, testified before House and Senate aviation-related committees; congressional and committee staff were educated on ALPA’s security priorities; and ALPA staff sought to maximize support among lawmakers for speedy passage of a strong and effective aviation security bill.

On Nov. 19, 2001, the President signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (PL107-71), establishing a uniform, consistent security system in airports nationwide. The new law contained many of ALPA’s recommendations:

• strengthening cockpit doors,

• federalizing the security workforce,

• allowing volunteer pilots to be armed,

• increasing the use of federal air marshals, including a waiver of the marshals’ age restriction for flight-crew members who were furloughed during the year following 9/11/01 and who apply to be a marshal,

• permitting authorized persons to have access to airline cockpits, and other items.

HIMS funding

At ALPA’s request, the FY2002 DOT Appropriations Bill included $500,000 in funding to continue the ALPA Human Intervention and Motivation Study (HIMS) substance abuse program for the next 3 years. This is the third time ALPA has secured federal funding for the HIMS program, covering the last 10 years of its operation.

Age 60

Legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate to raise the mandatory retirement age for airline pilots from 60 to 65. The measure never moved in the House, but received action in the Senate. A bill, S.361, introduced by Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska), was reported out of committee with an amendment to change the age to 63, but it was never scheduled for floor consideration. Sen. Murkowski offered his bill, as amended, as an amendment to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, but it was tabled by a vote of 53-47 and not considered again in the 107th Congress. Consistent with current ALPA policy, the Government Affairs Department opposed passage of this legislation.

Armed pilots

As a result of the Administration’s refusal to implement the provisions of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act relating to arming airline pilots, ALPA worked with its congressional allies to enact legislation directing the newly created Transportation Security Administration to create a specific program for this purpose.

In April 2002, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and House Aviation Subcommittee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) introduced H.R.4635, the Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act. The bill mandated a program for qualified, trained volunteer airline pilots to be deputized as Federal Flight Deck Officers and to carry firearms as a last line of defense against terrorism.

ALPA's Government Affairs Department expects that a bill allowing appeals during criminal history record checks of airline employees who have access to secure areas of an airport will be reintroduced soon, and ALPA will continue its efforts to ensure that protective language providing safeguards or due process for these employees is included in the legislation.

ALPA worked closely with Reps. Young and Mica to craft this bill. In May 2002, Sen. Bob Smith (R-N.H.) and others introduced a companion bill, S.2554. On July 10, 2002, the House of Representatives passed H.R.4635 by a vote of 310-113. On Sept. 5, 2002, by a vote of 87-6, the Senate added S.2554 as an amendment that Sen. Smith and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) offered to legislation creating a Department of Homeland Security. Both measures applied to all airline pilots.

During the lame-duck session of Congress, the House passed H.R. 5710, the Homeland Security Act of 2002, by a 299-121 vote (PL107-296). The Senate followed suit, passing the House bill by a vote of 90 to 9. Included in that bill was the language of H.R.4635, with one notable exception. Due to a last-minute, backroom House Republican leadership maneuver, the word "passenger" was inserted in the bill, relative to the federal mandate to arm airline pilots, meaning that it would apply only to pilots of passenger aircraft, exempting all cargo carriers. This action was taken in concert with the White House at the urging of FedEx and UPS managements.

As soon as the 108th Congress convened, ALPA Government Affairs staff sought congressional sponsors to introduce legislation to correct this inequity. On February 13, Reps. John Mica (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, and Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member of the Aviation Subcommittee, introduced H.R. 765, which would allow volunteer, trained cargo pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit to combat terrorist attacks. On March 4, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) announced they will be introducing a similar measure entitled the Arming Cargo Pilots Against Terrorism Act, which requires training to begin within 90 days after it’s signed into law. Government Affairs staff will work closely with these congressional leaders to enact this legislation this year.

The Airline Labor Dispute Resolution Act

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Trent Lott (R-Miss.) introduced in August 2001 the Airline Labor Dispute Resolution Act, S.1327, which airline managements were strongly promoting. The bill would have imposed baseball-style, binding arbitration on airline negotiations, giving the Secretary of Transportation the authority to declare an emergency at any time he or she believed a labor dispute threatened to interrupt air service in any region of the country. Once the emergency was declared, the Secretary could impose binding baseball-style arbitration upon the parties. The bill, which was significantly tilted in favor of employers, eliminated the right to strike and would diminish the role of the National Mediation Board in airline labor negotiations.

The Air Transport Association and several airlines’ CEOs established a coalition known as Communities for Economic Strength Through Aviation (CESTA) to promote passage of S.1327. ALPA and other unions responded with a campaign to inform senators of the unions’ strong opposition to this legislation, including a grassroots call to action among union members. ALPA and other airline union representatives met with key Senate staff members to enlist their aid to block this legislation from being raised on the Senate floor. In August 2002, the AFL-CIO Executive Council passed a strong resolution condemning the bill.

S.1327 was referred to the Senate Labor Committee. Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) chaired the Committee, and the legislation never moved forward. The House had no companion bill.

The bill will likely be reintroduced in the new Republican-controlled Congress. A new bill could be referred to the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, of which Sen. McCain is chairman, rather than to the Labor Committee.

Airport access control

ALPA has promoted the need for positive, electronic verification of identity and electronic airport access control systems since 1987. This issue remains one of ALPA’s highest airline-security priorities. The heightened security that resulted from the 9/11 attacks has exacerbated the need for such a system.

In early 2002, the TSA announced an effort to develop an industrywide transportation worker identification card (TWIC), which could provide the means to allow airline/airport employees to reach their aircraft or job sites in an expedited manner. The Omnibus FY 2003 Appropriations Bill (PL 108-7), passed in January, contains $35 million to test and implement this program.

Criminal records checks

One of the unnecessary steps that the government took in the wake of 9/11 was to require criminal history record checks of all existing airline employees who have access to secure areas of an airport. In establishing this requirement, the government failed to provide any safeguards or due process for employees. Working with the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, ALPA was able to include language in the Aviation Stabilization and Reform Act requiring the TSA to establish a process allowing for appeals and for waivers to be granted to employees who can show that they are not a security risk.

Although the House Aviation Subcommittee favorably reported the bill, no further action took place before the 107th Congress adjourned. The Government Affairs Department expects that this bill will be reintroduced soon, and ALPA will continue its efforts to ensure that this protective language for airline employees is again included in the legislation.

Campaign finance reform

In March 2002, President George W. Bush signed legislation that imposes major new restrictions on campaign financing for the first time since the post-Watergate reforms were implemented. The new law, which took effect on Nov. 6, 2002 (the day after the congressional elections), bans so-called "soft money"—the unlimited contributions from corporate and union treasuries that could be made to national political parties for party-building activities. ALPA has never made soft money donations and has always supported such a ban.

The bill also doubles to $2,000 the amount individuals may contribute to a federal candidate in a single election, although no comparable increase was made for PAC contributions, which remain at a maximum of $5,000 for each of the primary and the general elections. Another major area of reform relates to limiting "issue ads" that target specific candidates just before elections. The constitutionality of the new law, especially the new constraints on issue ads, is uncertain, and lawsuits have been filed and are being heard.

ALPA worked with the AFL-CIO and other unions to thwart efforts to include "paycheck protection" provisions in the campaign finance reform legislation. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) offered an amendment that would require unions to secure voluntary authorization every year from each union member to use his or her dues for "political activities" and defined "political activities" so broadly as to include virtually any activity that touches the federal government.

The amendment, which President Bush supported, was defeated by a 69–31 vote.