Union Update

Gary DiNunno, Editor-in-Chief
Air Line Pilot
, September 2004, p.36

FAA Late in Complying With New Aviation Safety Law

Nearly 4 months after a congressionally mandated deadline to take action, the FAA continues to turn a blind eye to curbing the dangerous practice of U.S. aircraft being repaired in unsafe and uninspected foreign repair facilities, Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department, recently warned. "The Bush administration’s silence and inaction speak volumes. The interests of foreign corporations continue to prevail at the expense of the traveling public. This reckless disregard for the law and aviation safety must end immediately," Wytkind said.

"The White House has stonewalled every effort that has ever been made to close this dangerous loophole in our aircraft repair laws and now it acts like the law never passed," Wytkind said, referring to new enhanced safety and security standards required by Congress. By March 12, the FAA was supposed to submit a plan to ensure that foreign repair stations working on U.S.-registered aircraft are subject to the same level of safety oversight as required here at home. Congress acted in the wake of the Bush administration’s rejection of a petition from the AFL-CIO and TTD, on behalf of its mechanic unions, to suspend foreign repair until security audits could be performed. In July 2003, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General issued a scathing report sharply critical of the weak oversight that third-party contractors perform on aircraft maintenance overseas.

"Our government shows its true colors when it snubs airline safety and security—and the law—to keep from offending foreign business interests. The FAA must immediately issue the new safety plan that Congress demanded and hold foreign repair stations to the same standards imposed on U.S. facilities and their employees, including drug and alcohol testing requirements," Wytkind said.

The TTD represents 35 member unions in the aviation, rail, transit, trucking, highway, longshore, maritime, and related industries. ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, serves as a TTD vice-president. For more information, visit

AFL-CIO Protests Chamber of Commerce Call to Export Jobs

The labor movement was, in the immortal words of Claude Rains, "shocked, shocked, shocked" to learn in July that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has publicly called for the increased exportation of U.S. jobs. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney summed up union reaction with this statement: "It is a shocking slap in the face to America’s hard-working men and women for Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to brazenly call for even more good American jobs to be sent overseas, blindly arguing that this is good for America because this is best for corporations’ bottom line.

"It is absolutely stunning that Donohue would then go on to accuse those men and women of ‘whining’ when giant corporations ship their jobs overseas—despite the fact that these men and women are the ones who suffer the resulting home foreclosures, bankruptcies, loss of health care, and the missed chance for a college education that follows such community devastation," Sweeney said.

"Donohue is oblivious to the fact that our nation is reeling from a major jobs crisis as good jobs disappear overseas every single day. We’ve lost 2 million family-supporting manufacturing jobs under the Bush administration, and long-term unemployment is at a 20-year high. Wages are at their lowest levels in two years, more people are uninsured than when Bush took office, and the new jobs that are being created—Wal-Mart type jobs—pay on average 20 percent less than the jobs that went overseas.

"Tom Donohue would benefit from taking a hard look at the world in which he actually lives—rather than seeing the world solely through his comfortable corporate bubble—and considering whether his pointed rhetoric drives even further the wedge between the wealthy and the rest of the people in this nation."

Economic Policy Institute Says Millions To Lose Overtime Pay

Under final changes to labor rules, effective August 23, that the Bush administration strongly supported, some 6 million U.S. workers will lose their right to overtime pay, according to a study that the Economic Policy Institute recently published.

The new pay rules do add overtime protection to some low-wage workers —the wage level below which they are automatically eligible for overtime pay will be raised to $455 per week. With the same stroke, however, millions of workers will lose overtime protection for work performed more than 40 hours per week. Ross Eisenbrey, EPI’s vice-president and policy director, said that accepting the administration’s claim of wanting to help workers is difficult "when those who will lose [overtime protection] outnumber those who will be helped by 16 to 1."

After a public outcry last year when the Institute’s analysis of proposed rule changes revealed that the first version of the new rules would cause some 8 million workers to lose overtime eligibility, Department of Labor officials recalled the proposal so that they could resolve the problem. This final rule, however, axes coverage for 6 million workers.

"Whether you look at version one or two of the rule changes, you have to reach the same conclusion," Eisenbrey said. "The administration is intent on handing a huge windfall to employers—one that will be paid for out of the pockets of millions of workers."

UNITE & HERE Merge To Form 440,000-Member Union

Delegates of a joint UNITE (Union of Needletrades, Industrial, and Textile Employees) and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees) convention took a historic step in early July, voting to merge and form UNITE HERE, a new union with 440,000 members and 400,000 retirees. Both unions had a rich, militant history of fighting for—and winning—major gains for working people in the United States and Canada, and both were dedicated to building a bright future for workers. "That dedication is what this merger is all about," says a UNITE HERE spokesperson. "Together we’ll be better able to organize on a scale that hasn’t been seen since the 1930s and better able to raise standards in our industries."

Even before the merger, UNITE and HERE were related to each other, sometimes literally. Many of the two unions’ members live and work in the same communities and work in related industries, like hotel and restaurant workers who wear the uniforms that laundry workers wash and press. "We’re the same people, with the same interests," said one union leader. Last year, the two unions helped each other win a contract at Yale University and union representation at clothing giant H&M’s distribution centers.