WASHINGTON – Minnesota’s two U.S. senators voted against authorizing long-term funding for the Federal Aviation Administration Monday evening, citing concerns about the impact the legislation would have on unions. The bill was approved 75-20 with five Republicans joining 15 Democrats in opposition.
The first permanent reauthorization of the FAA since 2007 was the product of long negotiations with House Republicans who had initially sought significant changes in the way union elections in the transportation sector were run as their price for approval of the bill.
While some of those provisions were removed, another was added that increases from 35 to 50 percent the amount of workers’ signatures required to petition for a union to be formed. Many airline unions found that measure unacceptable and urged Democrats to oppose the bill.
“This legislation will make it much harder for Minnesotans to get the workplace protections provided by unions, and that’s simply unacceptable to me,” said DFL Sen. Al Franken in a statement explaining his no vote. Franken noted that the bill did protect funding for small, rural airports in Minnesota, a policy provision he had supported.
Fellow Democrat, Sen. Amy Klobuchar did not immediately issue a statement explaining her vote.
“…[P]rovisions that have nothing to do with the FAA were added to the conference report, and I don’t believe this legislation is an appropriate venue for making unrelated policy decisions,” said DFL Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who also supported the improved air traffic control and passenger rights provisions of the bill but voted against the final legislation.
The bill also hastens U.S. air traffic control’s transition to a satellite-based navigation system that’s expected to reduce delays and lower pollution.