Thursday, August 04, 2011

Should The FAA Be Re-funded?

I've heard of two issues that are preventing Congress from re-funding the FAA.
I support the Republican's decision to stop subsidizing flights to/from several airports. I have a lot of experience with traveling to Johnstown, PA - one of the airports that is at issue. I have never flown to Johnstown although I have traveled to Johnstown dozens of times. Like most people I fly to Pittsburgh and drive for 2.5 hours to Johnstown, because It takes me as much time to fly from NY to Pittsburgh and drive to Johnstown as it takes to fly from NY to Johnstown AND because it is too costly to fly to Johnstown from NY. If the State of PA wants to maintain and expand air travel into Johnstown to promote business development in Johnstown then the State of PA should subsidize the flights but it will only be worthwhile to the business traveler if there are more direct flights in Johnstown. Currently the only airport directly connected to Johnstown is Dulles in Washington D.C. That's not going to help the business traveler. They would need directs to/from LaGuardia, Atlanta and one in the mid-West Chicago, Dallas or St. Louis. Otherwise, business travelers will continue to drive to/from Pittsburgh.
I assume the circumstances at all the other small airports at issue are similar to Johnstown's and  the Fed should stop subsidizing flights to them.
The second issue is over the terms for unionizing air transportation industry employees. Employees can unionize if more than 50% of the employees cast a yes vote. Employees who do not vote will be counted as a no vote. That is not how unionization is determined in all other industries; it is not how Americans elect their government representatives. The Democrats want to change the rules so that the outcome is determined only by the votes cast. If only 60% of the employees vote, then only 1 more than one-half of the votes cast are needed to unionize. I agree with the Democrats: the outcome should be based only on the votes cast.
Why? I agree with the Democrats on the voting process for the same reason that I disagree with them on Card Check. The voting process for unionizing must be secret, otherwise, the company and other employees can and WILL use intimidation to control the voting. Employees actually threaten each other over unionization. Card Check makes known which employees want to unionize and which do not. Card Check would modify the current unionization process by taking the secrecy out of the voting. This gives an unfair advantage to the employees who want to Unionize. In the transportation industry, the employee that wants to unionize must vote. The employee that does not want to unionize only has to abstain from voting. Employees that want to unionize but fear reprisal from their employer if they vote to unionize will abstain from voting. There is no secrecy in this process. Employees know that by casting a vote, the company and other employees will assume that they are voting to unionize becuase anybody opposed to the union only has to abstain to be counted as a NO vote.
I'm not a big supporter of unionization. The need for a union varies by employer and by industry. However, any change to the unionization process that eliminates the protection of secrecy is wrong regardless of who benefits.
I suspect that the unionization process is the single important issue over which the FAA re-funding has not been approved.
Furthermore, it is a waste of time and taxpayers money to require re-funding votes periodically. The FAA should be funded until such time as Congress determines that it is no longer needed. If Congress had approves the FAA funding in July it still would have only been funding into September. This is a make-work, waste money process.

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