REALITY CHECK: Rep. Mica Rewrites History, Politics Of His FAA Shutdown

August 16, 2011 5:19 pm ET

In a letter to the editor of the Florida Times-Union last Friday, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) attempted to rewrite the reasons behind the recent shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration. Unfortunately for the Republican transportation chairman, the real reasons are well documented: Mica led the GOP's effort last spring to revert to an old, anti-labor rule for union elections in FAA-regulated industries, and when Democrats rejected that move it became necessary to pass another short-term extension of FAA authority. With that short-term extension expiring, and Congress set to recess for the rest of August, Mica attempted to gain political leverage for the anti-union rule by including a cut to rural airport subsidies which would impact airports in states represented by Democratic senators. We know that Mica's move was about leverage and not policy because he said so himself, on the record.

Mica Claims "Congressional Foot-Dragging" Forced His Hand But Doesn't Mention Union-Busting Rule

Mica: "I Drew A Line In The Sand" After "Continued Congressional Foot-Dragging." From Rep. Mica's letter: "After continued congressional foot-dragging and leaving behind important aviation policy and projects, I drew a line in the sand by adding a modest policy reform to the 21st FAA extension. That provision prohibited exorbitant passenger ticket subsidies exceeding $1,000 per ticket. The other rural air service reform provision included in the House extension was a provision previously approved by the Senate in their long-term FAA reauthorization bill which passed overwhelmingly in February. In spite of the fact that this 21st extension passed the House on a bipartisan basis and was sent to the Senate two weeks before Congress recessed, Democratic Senate leaders chose to demagogue the issue and attempted to cast blame." [Rep. Mica letter, Florida Times-Union, 8/12/11]

Mica: It Is A "Democrat Line" To Say FAA Fight Was About Labor Issues. From Rep. Mica's letter: "Do not buy the Democrat line that this extension included any labor provisions when in fact it only addressed pork-laden subsidies for a handful of airports." [Rep. Mica letter, Florida Times-Union, 8/12/11]

Reality Check: Mica Told A Conference Of Airport Executives That The Subsidy Cuts Were "Just A Tool To Try To Motivate Some Action" On The Labor Provision

2010: National Mediation Board (NMB) Changed Rule So That Non-Voting Workers Would No Longer Be Counted As "No" Votes. As reported by the Associated Press:

The FAA conflict began last year, when the National Mediation Board decided to change a 75-year-old rule that governs union elections at airlines and railroads. Since 1935, workers in those industries had to follow a rule that required a majority of all employees to vote in favor of a union. Those employees who chose not to participate in the election were counted as "no" votes.

For example, if a unit has 100 employees and only 60 of them decided to cast ballots, even if 40 workers voted in favor of the union and 20 voted no, the union would still lose because the 40 workers who decided not to vote would also be counted as "no."

The rule was designed to make it more difficult for transportation workers to organize because of the potential disruption to the public and commerce. By contrast, most other private businesses are governed by the National Labor Relations Board, which uses traditional election rules requiring a simple majority vote. [Associated Press, 8/9/11, emphasis added, via]

"House Republicans Want To Reestablish Old Rules" That Treat Non-Voting Workers As 'No' Votes In Union Elections. As reported by Talking Points Memo: "In the next several days, the state-level fight between Democrats and Republicans over unions will go federal. House Republicans want to re-establish old rules which say that when aviation or rail workers don't vote in unionization elections, they're treated as having voted against unionization. And now one of the nation's largest airlines is getting involved in the fight. The push is reflected in language in the House's FAA re-authorization bill. In an earlier stage of the legislative fight, Democrats, joined by a few Republicans, nearly succeeded in getting the provision stripped." [Talking Points Memo, 3/25/11]

  • GOP Rep. LaTourette: We Shouldn't Allow "The Mica Rule" Because It Is Undemocratic. In a March 31, 2011, speech on the House floor, Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) said: "When people read this record, they really need to know what this amendment's about and what we're talking about. What we're talking about is that the rule that the Mica bill repeals [sic], is that if you have 100 people that work for a company and you have an election and 70 of them show up and 65 of them vote to certify a union, the union loses because you don't get 50+ [of] the universe. Now in our example, Members of Congress, where voter turnout's about 49 percent in the last election. I've got 200,000 registered voters in my district. 100,000 show up, I get 70,000. I'm, champagne, you know, "great honey, we won another one, we fooled them again!" Well I would lose. 130 to 70. [...] When the old majority was on their way out...we needed to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government open until March the Fourth. Well you know what? 75 of our members went home for Christmas. So that C.R. to keep the government open passed 193 to 165. If the Mica rule is kept in place, the government would've shut down, and we would've lost that vote 193 to 240. Please pass the amendment [stripping the Mica rule]. [Rep. LaTourette floor speech, 3/25/11, via Political Correction]

Aviation Week: "The House Added...Policy Riders...To Extract Concessions On The NMB Provisions, According To Rep. John Mica." As reported by Aviation Week: "Underlying this recent tiff over the extension are larger divisions over the actual reauthorization bill. The top issue among them are changes to the National Mediation Board's (NMB) rules that would make it easier for airline and rail employees to unionize. The House added the [Essential Air Service] policy riders as a way to extract concessions on the NMB provisions, according to Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, who also spoke at the conference." [Aviation Week, 7/19/11, emphasis added]

  • Mica: "It's Just A Tool To Try To Motivate Some Action," And "The Rest Can Fall Into Place Within 20 Minutes." As reported by Aviation Week: "'It's just a tool to try to motivate some action to get this resolved,' Mica says, adding that the NMB issue is being moved 'at the highest leadership levels of the House and Senate and beyond my ability to resolve.' If the NMB provision were resolved, 'the rest can fall into place within 20 minutes,' Mica says. But the NMB provision, which Delta Air Lines has lobbied to overturn, is a non-starter in the Senate, which already voted against the provision. It also faces a veto threat from the president." [Aviation Week, 7/19/11, emphasis added]

FAA Partially Shut Down In July When Agency's Authority Expired. From a July 22, 2011, Bloomberg article: "The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration will halt some operations at midnight after the House of Representatives and Senate adjourned today without agreeing on legislation to extend the agency's authority. The disagreement means the FAA has to furlough as many as 4,000 workers tomorrow and stop collecting about $200 million a week in airplane-ticket and other taxes until it is resolved, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said yesterday. Air- traffic controllers, considered essential employees, would remain on the job. The agency has been without long-term funding legislation since 2007 and has operated on a series of short-term extensions, the most recent of which expires at midnight." [Bloomberg, 7/22/11]