Out of the ATC Frying Pan, Into the Fire?

Phony ‘Privatization’ Would Expand Big Labor Special Privileges

(download the June-July 2016 NRTWC Newsletter)

U.S. business analysts and many international travelers who have compared domestic air-traffic control (ATC) with the systems of other wealthy countries agree the U.S. desperately needs to modernize its management of the flow of air traffic.air-traffic-controllers-union

Modernization requires transitioning ATC from the current, antiquated radar-based system with radio communication to a satellite-based one with digital communication. Better technology will make it possible for planes to fly closer together safely, take more direct routes, and avoid landing delays.

A genuine privatization of ATC akin to Canada’s could reap huge savings for taxpayers and air travelers.

‘We Should All Pick Up Our Pay Checks With a Mask and a Gun’

Unfortunately, the pseudo-privatization provisions in H.R.4441, the so-called “Aviation Innovation, Reform, and Reauthorization Act of 2016,” would take domestic ATC in the wrong direction by expanding the monopoly privileges of National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) union bosses.

H.R.4441 would spin off ATC, now part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), into the “ATC Corporation,” a new not-for-profit monopoly.

Unfortunately, H.R.4441 explicitly provides that the hierarchy of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) union will continue for the foreseeable future “as the exclusive representative” of ATC Corporation employees on matters related to their pay, benefits and work rules.

The so-called “privatization” would thus leave in place a pro-Big Labor 1996 law through which then-President Bill Clinton and an out-to-lunch GOP Congress dramatically expanded the scope of NATCA bosses’ monopoly-bargaining privileges.

Two years later, NATCA bosses exploited this new power to secure, at taxpayers’ expense, the most lavish pensions and benefits in the world, while perpetuating inflexible controller scheduling and inefficient work rules and red tape.

After the FAA caved into NATCA bosses’ demands, then-union chief John Carr dared to boast that the deal was “such thievery we should all pick up our pay checks with a mask and a gun.”

Incredibly, H.R.4441 would render the 1996 monopoly-bargaining scheme even more anti-taxpayer and anti-air passenger by requiring “binding arbitration” in the case of an impasse in negotiations.

That would give the final say regarding union-boss compensation demands and work rules to arbitration boards that are typically stacked with Big Labor partisans instead of a presidential appointee who is accountable to the public.

Union-Boss Business Would Continue to Be Done On the Taxpayer’s Dime

Another union special privilege that H.R.4441 would entrench is wasteful “official time.” This is contract language authorizing current FAA and future ATC Corporation employees who are also union officers to do union business on the dime of taxpayers and air travelers.

According to Diana Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the U.S. Labor Department and now a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, in 2012, the latest year for which data are available, “19 air traffic controllers, 18 of whom earned six-figure salaries, were on full-time official time” — union work.

“Simply removing the ‘official time’ provisions in the NATCA boss-negotiated contract would save taxpayers and air travellers over $3 million annually, but H.R.4441 would make that impossible for years to come,” noted Matthew Leen, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee.

Committee Ready to Mobilize Massive Public Opposition To Block H.R.4441 if Needed

“Yet another illustration of this legislation’s extreme pro-Big Labor monopoly bias,” Mr. Leen continued, “is that it would give NATCA union officials seats on the ATC Corporation’s board of directors, effectively positioning union bosses on both sides of the bargaining table.”

H.R.4441, sponsored by union boss -appeasing Congressman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), has already been rubber-stamped by a U.S. House committee, and could come up for a floor vote soon after this Newsletter goes to press.

The Committee has already contacted every House member and urged them to oppose this sop to union monopolists.

Mr. Leen promised that he and other Committee leaders are ready to mobilize massive public opposition to prevent H.R.4441 from reaching President Obama’s desk if necessary.

In the meantime, he asked Right to Work members to contact their elected officials through the congressional switchboard and insist they oppose H.R.4441 on all votes.