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Fear and Misinformation on Capitol Hill - (6/6/2006)

DoT and FAA Misinformation Campaign Attempts to Undermine Legitimate Congressional Debate and Vote

Washington – In an attempt to stifle today’s legitimate Congressional debate on a bill (HR 5449) that would restore fairness and accountability to collective bargaining disputes, the Department of Transportation (DoT) and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have resorted to using taxpayer money to distribute misleading letters on behalf of non-governmental advocacy groups. The misinformation campaign is in opposition to legislation that would restore fairness to collective bargaining at FAA.

On Monday night, the eve of the bill’s consideration in the House of Representatives, the Department of Transportation was circulating letters obtained from organizations including Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform and the American Conservative Union. These letters included numerous misleading statements attempting to tie this straightforward legislation to everything from re-regulation of the airlines to privatization of air traffic control.  The DoT is well aware of the inaccuracies and still has chosen to circulate letters that include a contract price tag that ignores the fact that the union has already offered the taxpayers $1.4 billion in savings. 

The DoT appears intent on intimidating Congressional offices by participating in threats of a negative “score” from conservative groups in their annual rankings. This unprecedented misinformation campaign by a federal agency seems designed to instill fear in Congressional members who are ready to vote their conscience. Instead of allowing a clean vote on a clear issue, the rhetoric attempts to intimidate members into crushing federal workers and their rights to collectively bargain.

Meanwhile, the FAA yesterday attempted to cloud the issue further, announcing that it would ignore legitimate Congressional debate and declaring that contract changes would take effect immediately. Despite the forceful language used by the FAA, the announcement also included an admission that the Agency has no idea how long it will take to actually implement the changes. 

"No changes have been made, but the FAA wants to give that appearance in order to convince Congress that it is too late to act - nothing could be further from the truth," according to John Carr, President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA).  "The nation's air traffic controllers deserve better than a boss who, rather than sit down and discuss the issues with them, actively seeks out shrill voices to attack its own workforce." 

“The FAA continues to assert that its proposal is fair but it continues to use its resources to prevent any effort that would allow for a process where the proposal is reviewed by another government agency with expertise in the area,” continued Carr. “If the FAA proposal is fair, why are they afraid of review by a panel appointed by the President?”  Carr further pointed out the ironic fact that the Heritage Foundation is actively opposing legislation to use the Federal Service Impasses Panel to resolve the dispute, even though the chair of the Panel is also currently the Vice President of External Relations for The Heritage Foundation.

HR 5449, which the House of Representatives is expected to vote on tomorrow, does not approve the Agency proposal or the Union's. The bill would simply restore accountability to the labor relations negotiating process at FAA to make sure both sides receive a fair hearing.

Media Contacts:

Sam Hiersteiner
Alex Slater

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