Compromise Paves Way for Long-Term FAA Bill

Agreement on a controversial labor provision sets the stage for an end to stop-gap funding measures.

FAA Funding Bill
FAA Funding Bill

More than four years after the last long-term FAA funding bill expired, Congress has made a deal that may bring an end to the lengthy string of short-term stop-gap measures that have since kept the agency afloat.

The compromise centers on the elimination of a hotly debated provision backed by House Republicans that would have reversed a recent decision of the National Mediation Board (NMB) that made it easier for airline staff to unionize.

In exchange for dropping the condition, the new deal includes language that would require a public hearing before future NMB rulings, as well as a provision affecting union elections. Union runoff elections would now include an option on the voting ballot for no union, and the percentage of workers needed to seek a union election would rise from 35 percent to 50 percent, the same as that needed to decertify a union.

While the compromise overcomes one of the biggest hurdles between Republicans and Democrats on the FAA bill, Congress will likely not clear long-term legislation before the most recent stop-gap funding measure expires at the end of this month.

Last summer, nearly 4,000 FAA workers were furloughed for two weeks when a funding gap triggered a partial FAA shutdown. The FAA was unable to collect airline ticket taxes during the shutdown, causing the agency to lose out on nearly $400 million in tax revenue. Congress went on to pass legislation granting the furloughed workers back-pay for the time missed.