Yet another FAA reauthorization extension…...

Last week, the House of Representatives once again voted to extend the current authorization for federal aviation programs through March 31, 2010. For those keeping score at home, that marks the 17th extension voted by Congress since the authorization’s scheduled expiration date in 2007.

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Last week, the House of Representatives once again voted to extend the current authorization for federal aviation programs through March 31, 2010. For those keeping score at home, that marks the 17th extension voted by Congress since the authorization’s scheduled expiration date in 2007.

As LM has reported on these extension updates, the extension will allow the House and Senate to continue to work out differences between their own versions of a new FAA reauthorization bill.

Included in the bill is language to improve pilot training and safety on commuter and regional airlines.  And in House floor statement, James L. Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said that aviation programs, taxes, and Airport and Airway Trust Fund expenditure authority will continue without interruption pending completion of long-term Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization legislation with this extension.

LM has also previously reported, the House’s version of FAA Reauthorization contains a labor-related provision which has served as a bone of contention between parcel industry heavyweights FedEx and UPS. This issue was not directly referenced in the legislation extension, but it is clear that no immediate resolution is on the horizon.

The main issue between the outfits is based on a measure in the House version which calls for “express carrier employee protection” and has the potential to change the labor status for FedEx Express employees—except for pilots and aircraft maintenance workers— from Railway Labor Act (RLA) to the National Labor Relations Act, which applies to UPS employees. And as LM has previously reported, if this bill is signed into law, many industry experts contend that it will make it less challenging for the Teamsters Union to organize FedEx Express workers.

In the House version, an amendment-which was included by Representative James L. Oberstar (D-Minn.)-would amend the RLA to clarify that employees of an “express carrier” shall only be covered by the RLA if they are employed in a position that is eligible for certification under FAA’s rules such as mechanics or pilots, and they are actually performing that type of work for the express carrier. It added that all other express carriers would be governed by the NLRA. The Senate version of this bill does not include this amendment.

Since this amendment was first introduced, FedEx has steadily maintained that this amendment is essentially a bailout for UPS.

In literature for its campaign entitled BrownBailout.com, FedEx says that this amendment would force FedEx Express to operate under a law not designed for airlines and express companies. FedEx has previously defended its position by explaining that UPS and FedEx are “fundamentally different companies,” with UPS shipping 85 percent of its parcels on the ground, and FedEx primarily functioning as an airline, flying 85 percent of its packages in the air.

And in comments provided to LM by FedEx, the company said:
“We hope the new Congress will act quickly to develop and pass a new bill, without the anti-competitive bailout provision that benefits only UPS, and has nothing to do with the bill’s main purpose. It was clear from the election that voters are tired of backroom deals that put corporate interests ahead of the public good. Americans deserve the benefits of important air safety improvements and next generation navigation systems, as well as the thousands of jobs that will be created by improving airport infrastructure.”

FedEx also told me it is unable to comment further until it is able to confirm the Senate’s extension of the bill.

Fair enough, right? But does anyone think this was going to move in the Lame Duck Congress? I didn’t and chances are you didn’t either. 

But this does make what happens around March 31, 2010 worth following…unless Congress is shooting for 20 extensions, I guess.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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