Obama, Romney At Odds Over Approach To Labor
By Jen DiMascio
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
Romney's campaign materials do not indicate he would specifically seek to relitigate the fight that brought the FAA to its knees for two weeks last summer over how airline and railroad workers unionize. But the Alliance for Worker Freedom, which is affiliated with Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, sees the dispute between American Airlines and the Allied Pilots Association as a reason for wading back into the fight over how airline and rail unions form under the National Mediation Board. “We find serious fault in the Railway Labor Act and would also like to see legislation that would give workers' the right to spend money as they want, instead of having to pay dues to a union they do not want to be part of,” states the Alliance for Worker Freedom.
The bankruptcy at American Airlines has become a call to arms on both sides of the debate.
In filing for bankruptcy, American took advice on trimming labor costs from Romney's former management consulting firm, Bain & Co. In November 2011, American tried to terminate worker pensions. After a fight with the Obama administration's Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation, those pensions have been frozen but remain viable.
The administration's stance on the pension issue won the support of the flight attendants. But airline unions have worries beyond pensions. Of special concern to flight attendants is the perception that a Romney administration would unwind U.S. laws prohibiting foreign ownership and control of domestic airlines. This could result in the outsourcing of flight attendant jobs, says Veda Shook, Association of Flight Attendants/CWA (Communications Workers of America) president. Although cabotage regulations likely would prevent a foreign-owned U.S. carrier from employing a non-U.S. crew on domestic flights, international flights could be crewed by non-union, non-U.S. flight attendants, she adds. “We would lose some of our most lucrative routes to outsourced flight attendants.”
The unions are asking members to rearrange flight schedules in order to canvass in battleground states. That is part of a larger grassroots mobilization that includes talking to workers on the job and social media outreach.
The unions are also taking aim at vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget plans, noting that they cut funding for transportation. Ryan's record also includes “gutting requirements” for ensuring that foreign aircraft repair stations operate under safe conditions.
And with airline mergers and global alliances forming, now is the time for unions to mobilize, Wytkind says. “You can't create the economy that Romney wants to try to create without a robust aviation system that can move people and cargo efficiently.”