Union Update

Close Dangerous Loopholes in Aviation Security, Says TTD

Peter Janhunen, Manager of Publications
Air Line Pilot, March 2004, p.36

The AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department recently declared that loopholes in federal regulations governing overseas repair of U.S. aircraft create a "double standard" in aviation security. The TTD renewed its call to the Transportation Security Administration for an immediate suspension of maintenance on U.S. aircraft at foreign repair stations based overseas until rigorous security audits can be performed.

In regulatory comments submitted to the TSA, TTD President Edward Wytkind strongly opposed the FAA’s certifying foreign repair stations to work on U.S. aircraft without meeting the same standards as in this country.

"This double standard jeopardizes safety and security and must be eliminated," Wytkind said.

The TTD pressed the TSA to immediately begin reviewing "security vulnerabilities of stations located in countries that represent the most significant risk," a call the TTD first made in April 2003 when it petitioned the Bush administration for an immediate halt in certain foreign repairs until security could be ensured.

The TSA’s rejection of this petition, and a subsequent lobbying campaign by the TTD and its mechanics unions—the International Association of Machinists, the Transport Workers Union, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters—led to Congress’s mandating that the TSA develop new federal regulations and conduct security audits.

Stating that the September 11 terrorist attacks have only exacerbated these dangerous security threats, Wytkind said, "The reality is that security breaches at foreign aviation facilities can jeopardize aviation operations in this country.…It is not hard to imagine how certified foreign aircraft repair stations working on U.S. aircraft could provide terrorists with an opportunity to sabotage U.S. aircraft or components that will eventually re-enter the U.S. for domestic service." Wytkind said that all aircraft repair facilities should be held to one standard for safety and security, including equivalent standards for criminal background checks and drug and alcohol testing of workers as well as for tighter access to and security of repair facilities.

The TTD statement noted that the number of FAA-certified foreign repair stations has increased 325 percent since federal regulations were significantly loosened in 1988 and cited a July 2003 report by the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General that criticizes the U.S. government’s inability to adequately police the dramatic increase in outsourcing by the nation’s airlines.

Bipartisan Effort Stalls Assault on Overtime Pay

The U.S. Senate handed President George W. Bush a defeat in May when it approved an overtime-pay guarantee for workers who stand to lose their overtime pay under new rules that the Bush administration issued in April.

The 52–47 vote for an amendment by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) came after nearly 2 weeks of an intense Bush administration spin operation that tried to paint the new provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as an expansion of overtime eligibility that would not cost workers their overtime pay rights.

"Working families are fed up with the administration’s schemes and spin," Sen. Harkin said before the vote. "They have a simple request: ‘Give us an iron-clad guarantee that our overtime rights are safe.’

"If Mr. Bush and his Department of Labor are sincere in their stated desire to preserve overtime," Sen. Harkin said, "they can prove it by supporting my amendment to guarantee that workers who are entitled to overtime pay under the old rules will not lose that right under the new rules."

The Bush administration stood by Labor Secretary Elaine Chao’s April 28 refusal during a U.S. House of Representatives hearing to guarantee workers’ overtime rights. Senate Republican leaders—who recently blocked votes on the Harkin amendment—and most Republican senators voted against the measure. However, five GOP senators crossed the aisle and voted for the Harkin amendment, which was attached to the Foreign Sales Corporation tax bill (S.1627).

"Many of these overtime changes appear to have no justification other than to satisfy the desires of business groups," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. "The administration’s final regulation is rife with special interest fixes for industries that have been unable to secure them from Congress."

Sweeney also urged the House to support the Harkin amendment "and reassure all working Americans that their rights to overtime pay will be protected."

The Harkin amendment allows updates to the FLSA’s rules that govern overtime eligibility but ensures that no currently eligible workers lose their overtime pay and lets stand any provision that actually expands overtime eligibility. It also applies retroactively. If the Bush overtime takeaway goes into effect before the legislative process is finalized—the House must still act—the Harkin amendment would halt the overtime pay grab.

After a yearlong drive to take away workers’ overtime pay, the Bush administration published its new overtime rules April 23, and they are due to go into effect in late August.

If they do take effect, it will "mean longer hours and less pay for millions of workers—and more litigation for our entire economy," Ross Eisenbrey, vice-president of the Economic Policy Institute, told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing May 4.

Eisenbrey told the committee that the Bush administration overtime "final rule and its preamble are rife with ambiguity. Many of the regulatory provisions have been changed without real explanations, even while the [Labor] Department claims—contrary to the plain language of the rule—that it is not changing the law."

But Democratic congressional leaders have vowed to continue fighting the Bush overtime pay grab.

The next step will take place in the House, which could vote on the Harkin amendment as part of its version of S.1627 or vote to instruct House members of a House–Senate conference committee charged with reconciling two versions of the Foreign Sales Corporation tax bill to accept the Harkin amendment as part of the final legislation.

Although the Senate and House backed a similar overtime pay protection amendment last year, Republican congressional leaders, working closely with the Bush White House, stripped the amendment from the final version of the appropriations bill to which it was attached.

ALPA Member to Carry Olympic Torch

We are familiar with images of runners volunteering to carry the Olympic Torch through cities of the host country, but this year will be the first international torch relay. As the famous Olympic flame passes through Atlanta, Ga., First Officer Patrick Hassett (Spirit) will be one of the runners. F/O Hassett is one of the 480 U.S. torchbearers. More than 10,000 torchbearers will participate in the relay by the time the flame reaches the site of the 2004 summer games in Athens, Greece.

The flame was lit on March 25, in Olympia, Greece, and left Athens on June 2 to begin its global relay on June 4 from Sidney, Australia. The flame will travel from city to city on a chartered aircraft and, over the course of the relay, will visit all of the cities that have hosted the summer Olympic games as well as a few other cities.

The Olympic flame is passing through the United States June 16–19; the four cities participating are Atlanta, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and New York.