FAA's Trump Card Targeted

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Under the current rules, the FAA has the ability to declare an impasse in negotiations. That sends the whole package to the Republican-controlled Congress for consideration. If, as is widely speculated would be the case, Congress fails to deal with the contract within 60 days, the FAA deal that was on the table when the impasse was declared would by default become the new contract. Naturally, the union leaders are unlikely to see this as a fair arrangement and have lobbied tirelessly to kick that particular piece of legislation aside. The unions got their first break a month ago when Senate Democrats launched their bill. The bipartisan House bill is an exact replica of the Senate bill. The FAA isn't likely to react quietly. The agency also has friends and influence on the Hill and there's a good chance House members will be getting letters from the agency urging them to vote against the bill. In a Jan. 13 letter to Sen. Barack Obama, who sponsored the Senate bill, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey said the agency still hoped for a voluntary agreement but that the FAA's impasse-declaration right was a necessary balance to the unions' unique ability to bargain on wage and benefits issues. Virtually all other federal employees get their pay set unilaterally by management.