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Labor and Personnel Issues, Uncategorized

Will the Obama Presidency Affect PMA Parts?

A number of articles have been written about the candidates likely positions and plans for aviation.  AOPA interviewed both candidates on their positions about General Aviation.  Popular Mechanics compared the candidates likely positions on commercial aviation issues.  Senator Obama even posted a transportation policy on his website during his White House run.

But will President Obama do anything different that affects the PMA community?

Much of what candidate Obama promised concerning Transportation involved ‘big-ticket’ infrastructure investment.  He promised the sort of investment that the Transportation Community has been requesting for decades.  But he is not the first to promise infrastructure investment, and the reality is that the government is gong to be faced with a large number of programs competing for our tax dollars, so there is little likelihood  that he will make good on all of his infrastructure investment promises.  Promises most likely to be honored include investment in the so-called ‘next-gen’ air traffic system; but given the support that he received from the air traffic controllers union, it is equally likely that he will protect the jobs of the air traffic controllers.

Democrats have criticized Republicans for failing to hire and sufficiently pay air traffic controllers.  It has been reported that Senator Obama favored hiring more air traffic controllers and that he sponsored legislation to force the FAA to resume bargaining with the controllers (the controllers union still has not secured a new contract with the FAA).  So some of his new aviation infrastructure investment may go to hiring more controllers and to increased wages for controllers.

All of this suggests that the Aircraft Certification Service is unlikely to see much in the way of additional funding for engineers and inspectors to support the airworthiness safety review that the manufacturing community gets from the FAA.  This means that backlogs on processing PMAs could continue to grow, rather than shrinking.

This is a shame, because it undercuts another key element of President Obama’s plan – the plan to increase jobs in this country.  Diminished FAA certification resources means slower issuance of PMAs, which in turn means that we are delaying the issue of the underlying FAA certification that authorizes good, well-paying manufacturing jobs right here in the United States.

Many pundits have suggested that President Obama will fight to eliminate the secret ballot for union organizing elections.  Under the Employee Free Choice Act, secret ballots would be replaced by employee signatures on organizing cards (similar to signing a petition), and the union would know who had signed the cards and who had not signed them. This is not just an idle threat – an AFL-CIO press release notes that union members were important ot the Obama victory, and that “eighty-one percent of union members support passing the Employee Free Choice Act.”  The AFL-CIO claims to have a commitment from President-elect Obama to sign this bill if it passes the Congress. This is supposed to be a top priority of organized labor in the new Congress.

This could make it much easier for unions to organize jobs sites, because they could rely on peer pressure being directly applied to recalcitrant bargaining unit members to get them to sign cards, and as a practical matter, the organizers could make different promises and announce different plans at different times, and if they attracted differing constituencies within the bargaining unit, then they could get the respective constituencies to sign cards at different times.

For non-unionized manufacturing sites, this could represent a problem.  It would effectively make it nearly impossible to stop a union from organizing the job site – all it would really take would be patience – the patience to wait until the union can attract enough signatures to total more than 51% of the total employees in the bargaining unit. In today’s economy, creating new worries for employers about union organizing (which is a far different worry from the concern about bringing good benefits to the employees) does not see like the right way to lead off the Obama Presidency.


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About Jason Dickstein

Mr. Dickstein is the President of the Washington Aviation Group, a Washington, DC-based aviation law firm. He represents several aviation trade associations, including the Aviation Suppliers Association, the Aircraft Electronics Association, the Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association and the Modification and Replacement Parts Association.

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