WASHINGTON — A divisive labor issue that had stalled negotiations on a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill has been resolved, and there is now a real possibility that the long-awaited legislation could land on the president’s desk before the Jan. 31 deadline.
A conference committee had been struggling to resolve partisan disagreement over language in the Republican-controlled House version of the bill, which would make it harder for air and rail workers to unionize or decertify a union. That provision flew in the face of a decision by the National Mediation Board, and was unacceptable to Senate Democrats.
The new agreement, according to House Transportation Committee spokesman Justin Harclerode, includes “reforms” of the labor system. Several industry lobbyists said the agreement backs away from the hardline language in the previous House bill, but would require 50% of workers to vote to hold a hearing to unionize or decertify, instead of the current 35%.
It is still unclear whether lawmakers can beat the deadline and draft a new bill for both chambers to approve in the next week. Once industry lobbyist said one more short-term extension might be necessary, although another was told to “bank on” the bill getting done, and another characterized the talks as “moving very fast.”
“We’ll do everything we can to move forward quickly,” Harclerode said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the compromise is an example of “common sense results.”
“I am pleased that we were able to resolve the major obstacles to an agreement in a manner that protects American workers, and clears the way for a long-term extension of the Federal Aviation Administration,” Reid said. “While some issues remain, there is no reason we cannot resolve them in the coming days and avoid any risk of another FAA shutdown.”