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More Lessons in the Practical Science of Political Extortion
August 3, 2011 9:14 AM   Subscribe

The other political hostage crisis in Washington: "The government is likely to lose more than $1 billion in airline ticket taxes because lawmakers have left town for a month without resolving a partisan standoff over a bill to end the partial shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration." The standoff has resulted in a partial shutdown of FAA operations, leaving 4,000 airport safety workers out of work and forcing airport safety inspectors to work without pay. The dispute hinges on Republican legislative proposals designed to make it more difficult for FAA workers to organize into labor unions.
posted by saulgoodman (102 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Look how fiscally responsible they are!
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:18 AM on August 3, 2011 [13 favorites]


and who gets to keep that tax money....
posted by clavdivs at 9:22 AM on August 3, 2011


Guess that settles it then. No more flying for me. When planes start falling from the sky, I guess we'll get to hear about how the Democrats are destroying our economy because of the evil unions trying to keep the FAA shut down or something...
posted by daq at 9:25 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are there any airlines that haven't raised ticket prices to their post-tax equivalents in the meantime?
posted by Songdog at 9:25 AM on August 3, 2011


It is waaaay past time to start calling many of the Tea Bagger representatives of the right what they really are - domestic terrorists. They've latched onto union hate and "no tax hikes" as absolute mantra and use them to hold the whole fucking country hostage at every turn.

They may as well be screaming, "Fuck America. Fuck American workers. Fuck American rights. Either we get what we want, the way we want it, or we're blowing the whole thing up."

It's disgusting, it's unfair, and it is absolutely anti-American.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:26 AM on August 3, 2011 [48 favorites]


I am always impressed at how the parties can come together and bridge their differences to ensure that politicians do not have to work without pay. Everyone else can wait.
posted by jeather at 9:27 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


and who gets to keep that tax money....

Right wing donor Delta Airlines, which has been lobbying to keep airport workers from forming unions (and doesn't mind pocketing the money they would've given to the FAA while it's shutdown).
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:35 AM on August 3, 2011 [15 favorites]


The House Democrats have a response pegging jobs affected at 90,000. The problem is when FAA shuts down all airport construction projects stop, too, and so all those construction workers are without pay. Trickle down in action.

The underlying problem is the gloves are off and the children in Congress are playing politics with absolutely every part of government. Agencies like the FAA provide basic administrative services for the common good: they are not some controversial political lightning rod. But for some five years the FAA has never been properly funded, lurching from temporary bill to temporary bill, over some political disputes that the children in Congress can't resolve in a reasoned way.

This time the politics got a bit hotter, with some labor issue vs. some issue of pork subsidizing local airports. So instead of sitting down like adults and saying "let's fund this essential, basic federal service for a few more months and make a real plan to resolve the underlying dispute" the children just started crying and bawling and then said "fuck it, we're going on vacation for a month".

I'm a pilot, I've met a bunch of FAA employees, I've benefitted from their services. It's a great, professional organization full of ordinary men and women who want to do their jobs. To help people travel safely and efficiently. They don't deserve to be caught up in the squabbles of children.
posted by Nelson at 9:35 AM on August 3, 2011 [36 favorites]


It is waaaay past time to start calling many of the Tea Bagger representatives of the right what they really are - domestic terrorists.

Ask Joe Biden how well that works in the current political and media climate.

Are there any airlines that haven't raised ticket prices to their post-tax equivalents in the meantime?

Not really. But if you bought your ticket before the tax expired (i.e. July 23rd) and travel during the expiration, the IRS has advised the airlines that they have to refund that tax. So some travelers will see a (retroactive) price reduction.

It's not clear that the airlines will be able to keep their windfall, though. "Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said yesterday that the Treasury Department is studying whether the FAA tax revenue could be claimed retroactively."
posted by jedicus at 9:36 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look out! It's Zombie Ronald Reagan!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:38 AM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


We already had this showdown. Reagan:1, Unions:0.

No Republican who wants to get elected will ever cede territory that Reagan conquered.

This isn't about running a country or doing a job. This is about winning/being right, even if it's disastrous. Our government now represents me and my needs as well as my local football team does -- take the money, wear the shirt with the area on in, give me something to "cheer for" when "we" "win" and someone to "cuss the rotten bums" when we lose, without paying attention to the fact this whole game is increasingly pointless.
posted by Gucky at 9:44 AM on August 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


I'm so old, I can remember when you had to travel overseas to be in a third-world country.
posted by tommasz at 9:45 AM on August 3, 2011 [38 favorites]


Are there any airlines that haven't raised ticket prices

Virgin, at the start of this business (or so I heard), but I don't know if they have continued that practice.

Well, we can't say that we weren't warned. Not a month after Obama's inauguration, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), then chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, threatened the country with an insurgency, a tactic Sessions claimed to have learned from the Taliban. This is what a domestic insurgency looks like.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:45 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The congressional vacation shit really, really irritates me. What's their salary-per-actual-workday work out to if you take the vacations into account?
posted by odinsdream at 9:46 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]



Are there any airlines that haven't raised ticket prices to their post-tax equivalents in the meantime?


Alaska
posted by Danf at 9:53 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


> It is waaaay past time to start calling many of the Tea Bagger representatives of the right
> what they really are - domestic terrorists.

Shrill is back. It was never away, but it's back
posted by jfuller at 9:57 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The congressional vacation shit really, really irritates me. What's their salary-per-actual-workday work out to if you take the vacations into account?

I'm with you. In a sane world, an adult would would say no vacation until the basic work is done.

Like, I don't know, filling judges seats. There's like 100 empty judgeships, most of which have been empty 3 years or more. That's basic fucking governance. Like running the FAA. Like promoting the general welfare.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:04 AM on August 3, 2011 [13 favorites]


MeFi needs a PAC. Someone get Ironmouth to do the paper work.
posted by humanfont at 10:06 AM on August 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Here's what I think the White House should be doing about this: This plan is free; have at it guys. You can MeMail me my invite to one of these events if you're so inclined.

(Bonus feature: arrange funding from some organization to tarp over the construction sites and host carnivals for the workers and their families. "If the Republicans in Congress think they deserve vacations for destroying these jobs, I think these Americans sure deserve a few hours entertainment of their own.")
posted by zachlipton at 10:07 AM on August 3, 2011 [49 favorites]


Shrill is back. It was never away, but it's back

I don't know about that, it looks like they're trying to overthrow and destroy the government.
posted by me & my monkey at 10:07 AM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't know about that, it looks like they're trying to overthrow and destroy the government.

Well, sure they are, but for gosh sakes, you don't have to sound so ungrateful about it!
posted by saulgoodman at 10:09 AM on August 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


> I don't know about that, it looks like they're trying to overthrow and destroy the government.

It's just those rose-colored glasses of yours.
posted by jfuller at 10:10 AM on August 3, 2011


When do we get to declare the US a failed state and bring in African Union peacekeepers?
posted by rusty at 10:14 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder what concessions they'll manage to extort from the Democrats on this one....
posted by sotonohito at 10:14 AM on August 3, 2011


zachlipton: That's surely what would happen if we had a president that cared about working people.
posted by rusty at 10:16 AM on August 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


This is a bipartisan problem--Sen. Rockefeller holding up the closing of a number of small airports and union busting from the right. This is obscenity dumped on obscenity. As far as I am concerned they can take the one billion dollars in lost revenue right out of the operational budgets of congress over the next three years.
posted by rmhsinc at 10:19 AM on August 3, 2011


When do we get to declare the US a failed state and bring in African Union peacekeepers?

I don't know if I trust Jimmy Carter to observe the US elections. The Obama administration may be too much of a flashback for him.
posted by Gucky at 10:20 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Keith Olbermann supports general strike(s) (and makes a few comments regarding Tea Baggers' schizophrenic understanding of the Constitution). Hint: He's not happy with Democrats, either.

Transcript here.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:26 AM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


union busting from the right

Not so much. President Obama's National Mediation Board overturned decades of labor policy when it changed the game for unionization elections (in a nutshell, you used to need an absolute majority of members of a group to agree to form a union; now, you just need to get more than 50% of the voters in the union election). Republicans are seeking to roll back this new policy to the standard that held during Republican and Democratic administrations for over 50 years. This is not terribly radical.
posted by BobbyVan at 10:26 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, no transcript.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:27 AM on August 3, 2011


Are there any airlines that haven't raised ticket prices to their post-tax equivalents in the meantime?

Sigh. The fast answer is "No, almost none of them actually did, because if one does, they lose business."

There were tons of people who bought tickets in, oh, May, for travel in August. They paid the tax, because the airlines were required to charge the tax, and everyone assumed that they'd still need to pay the tax.

Then the GOP goes fuckwad (arguably, the airlines should have seen this) and the tax expires. The fares *after* July 22, 2011 did, in most cases, not have the tax attached. I fly a whole bunch, on a few routes, I saw the drop.

Now, those who bought tickets in May for travel after 22-Jul-2011 are not liable for the tax have already paid it, but the airlines don't have that money. They are required to forward it to the IRS as soon as they get it -- even though the tax technically isn't due until the day of the flight, but the rule is that the IRS gets the float, not the airlines.

So, what the airlines have to do is tell the *large* number of people that they need to talk to the IRS about getting a refund for flights after 22-Jul-2011 that were bought before then.

So, all those news stories in the days *before* 22-Jul about this? They were bogus. Yes, the airlines were charging the tax, because they were legally required to. If you bought a ticket before then, you had the tax apply -- even for flights that were not going to have the tax apply because Congress was going to fail to renew this. The law was very clear on that.

If you priced that ticket after 22-Jul, in almost all cases, the total cost dropped by the cost of the tax. In some cases, the fare did go up -- because if you waited until 23-Jul to buy a ticket for travel on 29-Jul, 5-Aug or 12-Aug, you crossed an advance purchase line, and that 21/14/7 day advanced purchase fare you had on 22-Jul went away, and you're now quoting a 14/7/3 day AP fare instead.

But -- at least on AA/AE/AX/SK, they did not increase any of the fares in a fare class by the amount of the tax.

It is possible somebody did this -- but all the FF I know saw the costs drop by the tax amount, which was easy enough for us to verify, because, well, we all had receipts to look at, which breaks out the costs. I know ConUnited was seriously considering raising the fare and putting all the money in escrow, because they're afraid they'll have to pay that tax anyway, but it was fare suicide to be the only one doing that.
posted by eriko at 10:30 AM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Our nation has become a laughing stock in many places and we are on a lemming-like march over the cliff to a truly fucked-up place.
Obama and the Dems need money for elections from corporations and the wealthy because unions too poor and small these days to be the tit upon which to suck. Both parties go to same source and are thus beholding to vested interests.
Schools, infrastructure, health, longevity etc are all falling behind , and yet not enough voters to even vote for what should be their self-interest.
Did I mention wars and the military?
posted by Postroad at 10:31 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


odinsdream writes "The congressional vacation shit really, really irritates me. What's their salary-per-actual-workday work out to if you take the vacations into account?"

No shit. I know if I was a safety inspector who was not only being asked to work without pay but also float the government that is fucking me a loan for my operating expenses I would be pissed right off that my representative, who is still assumably still collecting checks, decided to go on vacation.
posted by Mitheral at 10:36 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Bonus feature: arrange funding from some organization to tarp over the construction sites and host carnivals for the workers and their families. "If the Republicans in Congress think they deserve vacations for destroying these jobs, I think these Americans sure deserve a few hours entertainment of their own.")

I love this. Giant banners that say "HAPPY CONGRESSIONAL VACATION, REPUBLICANS!"
posted by odinsdream at 10:36 AM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]



eriko -- this article has quotes from several travel agency type people, all of whom say the fares went up by the amount of the tax. How does that reconcile against what you've seen?

And this article has a direct quote from airline representatives:
""We adjusted prices so the bottom-line price of a ticket remains the same as it was before ... expiration of federal excise taxes," said American spokesman Tim Smith. US Airways spokesman John McDonald said much the same thing -- passengers will pay the same amount for a ticket as they did before the taxes expired."
posted by inigo2 at 10:38 AM on August 3, 2011


It is waaaay past time to start calling many of the Tea Bagger representatives of the right what they really are - domestic terrorists. They've latched onto union hate and "no tax hikes" as absolute mantra and use them to hold the whole fucking country hostage at every turn.

The GOP Senate majority leader has already admitted that. I quote the honorable member from Kentucky: "I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting. Most of us didn't think that. What we did learn is this -- it's a hostage that's worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done."

So, yeah -- Joe Biden is the asshole in this equation. Right.
posted by blucevalo at 10:39 AM on August 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


What's the over/under on Obama and the Dems having their asses handed to them on this one too?
posted by three blind mice at 10:40 AM on August 3, 2011


It is waaaay past time to start calling many of the Tea Bagger representatives of the right what they really are - domestic terrorists.

Ask Joe Biden how well that works in the current political and media climate.


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admitted in the Washington Post today that his party had taken the debt ceiling “hostage,” and that some of his colleagues were willing to “shoot[]” it
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:55 AM on August 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


What's the over/under on Obama and the Dems having their asses handed to them on this one too?

Why bother betting? After offering to cut SS and Medicare, Obama needs to run *against* the unions right?
posted by ennui.bz at 10:56 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


President Obama's National Mediation Board overturned decades of labor policy when it changed the game for unionization elections (in a nutshell, you used to need an absolute majority of members of a group to agree to form a union; now, you just need to get more than 50% of the voters in the union election). Republicans are seeking to roll back this new policy to the standard that held during Republican and Democratic administrations for over 50 years.

A rule being stupid for a very long time doesn't mean it's suddenly less of a stupid law. This is only more ironic coming from Republicans who have long lambasted things like card check because it "removes the fair right to a secret ballot like all major elections."

If "all major elections" posited that not voting was an automatic vote against the challenger then the corpse of George Washington would be serving it's 55th term.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 11:00 AM on August 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


Part of the fight in Congress is about the Essential Air Services subsidy, which guarantees a minimum amount of commercial air services to small, underutilized, usually rural airports. It's a direct result of deregulation and was an effort to keep Bumfuck, North Dakota in the 20th century.

EAS currently costs on the order of $200 million per year. The FAA is slated to lose about a billion dollars in taxes if they're funding isn't restored until Labor Day. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.
posted by backseatpilot at 11:02 AM on August 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm so old, I can remember when you had to travel overseas to be in a third-world country.
posted by tommasz at 9:45 AM on August 3 [8 favorites +] [!]


I'm so old, I remember when you could travel overseas!
posted by FatherDagon at 11:15 AM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Republicans can keep doing this ad infinitum, ad nauseam. They don't care if government breaks down. They know the Democrats care deeply and are terrible negotiators. They are completely ruthless and completely devoted to private industry taking over. There are tons of veins for them to mine in this fashion. And the rest of us are helpless -- I voted, I donated, I participate -- yet I'm stuck with these idiot kleptocrats because we have too many religious moron voters in certain areas of the country who don't understand the realities of running a country.
posted by theredpen at 11:18 AM on August 3, 2011 [15 favorites]


A rule being stupid for a very long time doesn't mean it's suddenly less of a stupid law.

Can't argue with that, for sure. But don't pretend that this wasn't anything but a radical effort to change the balance of power in labor relations.

As for the substance of the rule, I'd argue that the threshold should be higher for these unionization elections. Unions have a great deal of power in representing employees in contract negotiations and labor disputes -- and because decertifying a union can be next to impossible, a decision to unionize should require an absolute majority, as opposed to a simple majority of motivated voters.

And the "card check" analogy cuts both ways. You can't say that unionization elections should be "simple majority" affairs like voting for the school board, yet support initiatives that would remove the secret ballot.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:18 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, the "55th term of George Washington" is actually a pretty apt analogy. Unions face one significant vote and they're around basically forever. As far as I know, they don't have to face the voters every four years to get re-authorized (I'm not an expert on this, so glad to be corrected if I'm mistaken). The leadership is certainly responsible and can be booted, but not the union itself. One more reason to make sure that the initial vote is one that a majority of all workers want, as opposed to a majority of agitated workers.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:25 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can't argue with that, for sure. But don't pretend that this wasn't anything but a radical effort to change the balance of power in labor relations.

None of which has anything to do with whether the FAA should continue to operate while Congress takes its richly undeserved vacation. There is room for legitimate debate as to how unions should be certified and the election procedures used. Holding 90,000 airport construction jobs hostage, massively screwing up tax collection (if not outright forgoing millions in revenue), and leaving thousands of safety inspectors working without pay is not a legitimate way to have that debate or engage in any kind of reasonable legislative process.

Yesterday the issue was the debt ceiling and now it's union regulations and the FAA. The problem here isn't the specific issues at hand, it's the Republican Party's insistence that they will gladly destroy the government and millions of people's lives to win every single fight.
posted by zachlipton at 11:31 AM on August 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


Gee, BobbyVan, care to explain why union elections should have higher standards than any political election practiced in this country?
posted by lackutrol at 11:41 AM on August 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


...meaning any officeholders and every prop vote, which counts in perpetuity?
posted by lackutrol at 11:43 AM on August 3, 2011


Sure. I'd compare a union certification election to adopting a constitution. It's pretty tough to amend a constitution, so if you're going to adopt one, you want to make sure you've met a high threshold.

This is especially important because the NMB does not have a union decertification process.

zachlipton: I think it's lousy that the FAA has furloughed employees while the Democratic-controlled Senate and Republican-controlled House take 5-week vacations. I wish that Senate Democrats had gone with Majority Leader Reid's recommendation to approve the short-term extension of the FAA (passed by the House), but they did not.
posted by BobbyVan at 11:50 AM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


The whole card check/secret ballot argument is extremely disingenuous. Card check is a secret ballot. And even then, card check is usually followed by another secret-ballot election (although it doesn't have to be). It's the only rational way to keep management from mucking things up through FUD.

The only people making the argument of card check vs. secret ballot are the people who want to give management time to intimidate workers.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:56 AM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


"'I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting,' he said. 'Most of us didn’t think that. What we did learn is this — it’s a hostage that’s worth ransoming.'"
If you call yourself a "hostage taker" and talk about "shooting" and "ransoming," then you haven't much ground to complain when others start accusing you of terrorism. Now, I'm not saying that Minority Leader McConnell is a terrorist, but he'd better thank his god that he's not named "Bin Laden."
posted by octobersurprise at 11:56 AM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unions face one significant vote and they're around basically forever. As far as I know, they don't have to face the voters every four years to get re-authorized (I'm not an expert on this, so glad to be corrected if I'm mistaken

You are mistaken. Members may vote to dissolve the union by a simple majority. A petition signed by 30% of the members is all that is required to start the process.
posted by humanfont at 11:56 AM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


You are mistaken. Members may vote to dissolve the union by a simple majority. A petition signed by 30% of the members is all that is required to start the process.

Perhaps so for unions outside the NMB sphere. But not for unions regulated under the Railway Labor Act. That's what we're talking about here.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:02 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Okay, so I'm going to take issue with labeling the August recess as a "vacation," because it's not.

Historically, it's a holdout from when many Senators and Representatives were farmers, and needed to return home for the harvest. Today, it's an opportunity for the politicians to get some time "on the ground" in their home states and districts.

It's also a chance for them to work on reelection efforts, if they're up for reelection, which also presumably allow them to get more in touch with their constituents. Like it or not, this is an essential part of the democratic process, and it's probably a good thing that they've got some time built into their calendars for it.

Suffice it to say, most of them will not be returning to their ranches to clear brush.

Also, it's a nice window for us to be able to execute disruptive renovation and infrastructure projects around the capitol. (If I remember correctly, they replaced the nasty old carpet in the Senate Chamber last August, and replaced a bunch of old wiring -- can't do that when congress is in session!)

On the other hand, the legislature can (and often does) take a recess without officially adjourning. Coincidentally, the Senate and House have done just that, and have not officially adjourned, despite the fact that they both left for recess last night, and have no intention to conduct any business for the next month.

Over the next month, the Senate will meet 9 times for pro forma sessions, in which a Senator (usually one from Maryland or Delaware) walks in, bangs a gavel, notes the absence of a quorum, and adjourns the meeting. These sessions exploit a loophole in the constitution, which only allows the two chambers may not adjourn without the consent of the other, and allows the president to make recess appointments or call the legislature back for an emergency session. By holding meetings in which no business is conducted, neither chamber is technically adjourned, and the president is effectively stripped of these executive powers.

This last point is relevant to the topic of this thread -- many Republicans and several democrats do not want nominations to be processed in the next month, and many feel that the President has a quite legitimate cause to call an emergency session to resolve the FAA reauthorization. However, because they're not technically adjourned, the President does not have this power.

That said, we really should remove this loophole or make it permanent to eliminate the need for these pro forma sessions. In my office alone, we need about 24 people on staff for an entire day to execute one of these 30-second Senate meetings. It also prevents (or impedes) infrastructure upgrades and from happening during the period when we assumed that the Senate would not be meeting. A national crisis or legislative emergency is one thing, but these sessions are a mere formality -- and an expensive one at that.

These fake-recesses can also be used as a "cooling off" period after the resolution of a particularly contentious issue. Last year, the Senate broke for a very long pro forma recess after the passage of the healthcare reform measures, because members of both parties were concerned that any further bickering would even further destroy the re-election prospects of any incumbents. Also, they wanted to campaign. Given the fracas over the debt ceiling, it's probably a good idea for the congresscritters to have some time to cool down and regroup, especially since the debt compromise is virtually going to require congress to work together to produce a more rational budget. (I'm still geeking out over how brilliant the "trigger mechanism" in the compromise was...)

Right now, there's also some weird stuff going on with the congressional leadership, given just how poorly the debt ceiling debate went. Nobody's really sure just how much influence that Boehner, Reid, Cantor, and McConnell have over their own parties. The Republicans leadership burned a lot of credibility, and exposed fissures within their own party, while Reid never really seemed to have very much loyalty from his own party to start with (his recommendation to temporarily reauthorize the FAA being a key symptom of this problem). Ironically, Pelosi seems to be the only congressional leader that seems to have emerged from this unscathed. The next few months in the legislature are certainly going to be interesting, and I suspect that many people are going to be spending the next month trying to figure out what the political landscape will be like when congress reconvenes in September.

Also, because the Senate isn't officially adjourned, I can't wear jeans to work. Damnit.
posted by schmod at 12:06 PM on August 3, 2011 [32 favorites]


This is a thread about Congress failing to do it's job, BobbyVan.

Please don't try to derail it into an argument about whether an extremely mild attempt to go against the tide of thirty years of Republican attacks on unions is, in any meaningful sense of the term "radical".
posted by lucien_reeve at 12:08 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lucien, the FPP closes with the statement: "The dispute hinges on Republican legislative proposals designed to make it more difficult for FAA workers to organize into labor unions." I thought that deserved some clarification.

Thanks for telling me what the thread is about.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:16 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


schmod:

Thanks for the insight.

That's the very coolest thing about Metafilter: no matter what's being discussed there's a good chance that there's a MeFite with an inside track.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:17 PM on August 3, 2011


In the last thread about the debt-crisis it was argued that the GOP had lost all of it's political capital in the debt fight.

I'm not sure if it was self-delusion by Democratic supporters to pump themselves up, or if they really believed it. But it's obvious now the Democrats lost that fight, and the GOP hasn't really lost political capital.
posted by formless at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thanks for your insight schmod. In fairness, even Voice of America is calling it a "vacation," so I don't think it's too off-base. Certainly, there are historical and modern reasons for this recess period, but no one is forcing them to take the recess right now at a time when they have barely managed to perform the basic minimum functions of their job by avoiding an economic apocalypse and accomplished little else.

The waste you mention about staffing for pro-forma sessions is appalling. What do all these people need to do as a result of a 30 second one-Senator session?

Incidentally, your point about Pelosi brings to mind a conversation I just had with my mom. We all live in Pelosi's district, and my mom actually decided to call her local office on Monday just to say "I'll spare you the speech, but if you're keeping a tally of constituents' opinions on this, add one to the 'disgusted' column." Instead of a simple "thank you," the staffer actually responded "yes, we all are disgusted here." I'm not a massive Pelosi fan, but I sure am curious to see how she tries to engineer a way through this, because I don't see anyone else in a position to make it happen.
posted by zachlipton at 12:22 PM on August 3, 2011


I'm not sure if it was self-delusion by Democratic supporters to pump themselves up, or if they really believed it. But it's obvious now the Democrats lost that fight, and the GOP hasn't really lost political capital.

Lord knows I don't have much love left for Obama, but I'm not sure you're correct.

There is now a full-on war inside the Republican party - a war that's probably similar among the rank and file. It's like progressives vs. blue-dogs x 10,000.

AND, the "don't ask anything more from millionaires, billionaires, and corporations" is wearing thin with pretty much everybody.

I see a trainwreck ahead for the GOP.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:25 PM on August 3, 2011


These fake-recesses can also be used as a "cooling off" period after the resolution of a particularly contentious issue.

Fake recesses can also be used to block the President from making any recess appointments, like say a Director of the new CFPB.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:25 PM on August 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


BobbyVan writes "As for the substance of the rule, I'd argue that the threshold should be higher for these unionization elections. Unions have a great deal of power in representing employees in contract negotiations and labor disputes -- and because decertifying a union can be next to impossible, a decision to unionize should require an absolute majority, as opposed to a simple majority of motivated voters."

Are absolute majorities required for anything else? You sure as heck don't seem to need them for crap like state constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage or effectively outlawing abortion. Both procedures that inflict more harm on more people than any union membership. And it's not like voting no is a huge chore. If you can't be arsed to vote then your vote should be counted as "Don't care either way" rather than a "No".
posted by Mitheral at 12:27 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


WTF are We The People supposed to do about stuff like this? I'm heavily involved in local politics, but every time national politics crosses my radar I just get sick to my stomach. I'm absolutely floored by what the country allows our politicians to get away with, and I've already done the thing that everyone says matters - "All politics is local." But it doesn't matter. It doesn't make a fucking bit of a difference. Nothing I do changes anything. As far as I can tell, nothing anyone does changes anything unless it's a corporation talking. Is the slide into a corporatocracy just too far gone at this point? Are we just well and truly fucked?
posted by stoneweaver at 12:28 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are absolute majorities required for anything else? You sure as heck don't seem to need them for crap like state constitutional amendments banning same sex marriage or effectively outlawing abortion. Both procedures that inflict more harm on more people than any union membership. And it's not like voting no is a huge chore. If you can't be arsed to vote then your vote should be counted as "Don't care either way" rather than a "No".

As I mentioned above, since unions regulated under the National Mediation Board cannot be decertified, requiring an absolute majority for certification is reasonable.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


blucevalo: ""I think some of our members may have thought the default issue was a hostage you might take a chance at shooting."

See, it took me a second to realize he wasn't referring to this TVTrope.
posted by pwnguin at 12:47 PM on August 3, 2011


BobbyVan writes "since unions regulated under the National Mediation Board cannot be decertified, "

That isn't what the link says:
The NMB does not have a union-decertification process per se. However, if an incumbent organization or individual loses an election, it loses its representation status.
posted by Mitheral at 12:48 PM on August 3, 2011


And what that means is that the union leadership can be tossed aside, but not union-representation as such.
posted by BobbyVan at 12:49 PM on August 3, 2011


MeFi needs a PAC. Someone get Ironmouth to do the paper work.

reddit tried to get something off the ground a month or two ago, /r/changenow, but they weren't really organized enough to do anything.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 12:49 PM on August 3, 2011


As a tangent, it's been sad watching Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell pick apart the better aspirations of building an extension of the Metro system to Dulles Airport. First he says, if Virginia is going to pay for part of it, Virginia needs more representation on the Metro board. Then he decrees that he will only fund the cheaper, less convenient option because a world class airport only needs a second rate connection to the public transportation system. Funding is tight, so the airport authority backs down and agrees to the above-ground option and McDonnell gets his way. But now he threatens to withhold funding unless the Airport Authority agrees to drop their labor requirements of union-level standards for wages, benefits, and skills.

The Republican's coordinated assault on union employees is a very sad thing to witness.
posted by peeedro at 1:28 PM on August 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


Disclaimer: I am not a constitutional scholar or even a policy wonk. I'm an IT guy, and sometimes an engineer.

I had to very carefully avoid not using "adjourn" and "recess" interchangeably in that comment (and probably still managed to screw it up). Hopefully an actual constitutional scholar can jump in and clarify things. (Ugh. And I really need to proofread those long comments. Where's that Undo button, Matt?)

My office handles the Senate Floor TV broadcast, ie. CSPAN-2. Our staffing requirements are actually fairly lean as far as live TV broadcasts are concerned. However, because we legally need to broadcast and record every meeting of the Senate, we need a director, several camera(wo)men, a sound guy, graphics operator, colorist, at least one engineer, captioner, backup captioner, engineer, videotape operator, and a skeleton crew of support staffers (such as myself).

And that's just one office for one facet of a Senate meeting. The Sergant at Arms, Secretary of the Senate, Architect of the Capitol, and Capitol Police all need to have people in place as if a real session of the Senate were about to convene. (I don't remember if the Chaplain gets called in for Pro Forma sessions)

As I mentioned, we do work with a skeleton crew on these days, although it really interferes with maintenance, and the difference between a minimal crew and no crew is still fairly large.
posted by schmod at 1:30 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


And what that means is that the union leadership can be tossed aside, but not union-representation as such.

Has this ever been a problem historically, that a majority of workers wished to leave the union but could not?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:41 PM on August 3, 2011


I'm not sure if it was self-delusion by Democratic supporters to pump themselves up, or if they really believed it. But it's obvious now the Democrats lost that fight, and the GOP hasn't really lost political capital.

honest question: Does the GOP (or the TP) have political capital? I don't feel like they're pushing their will around because the nation has their back. I feel like they're pushing their will around because they're the only ones who are ok with the "do nothing at all" half of "we do it my way or we do nothing at all."

With polls showing that most people blame the GOP for how badly the debt ceiling debate went, I don't see how political capital has anything to do with it.
posted by jermsplan at 1:58 PM on August 3, 2011


Obama: Debt Ceiling Deal Required Tough Concessions By Both Democrats And Democrats Alike

Obama added that while it may look ugly at times, politics is about Democrats giving up what they want, as well as Democrats giving up what they want, until an agreement can ultimately be reached.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:19 PM on August 3, 2011 [14 favorites]


Has this ever been a problem historically, that a majority of workers wished to leave the union but could not?

Well in the past, a majority of workers needed to vote for the union in order for it to begin representing them. But the Democrats were proposing to change that, which would have led to the possibility that a union could be brought into power by a smaller number of individuals than it would take to get rid of one. That seems like a reasonable concern.

The logical compromise would be, if you want to lower the bar for unionization to a majority of employees voting, then you should lower the bar for decertification to match. Then it wouldn't have the "trapdoor" effect.

I don't know if that was ever put on the table, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:28 PM on August 3, 2011


We already had this showdown. Reagan:1, Unions:0.

The Strike That Busted Unions: Ronald Reagan’s confrontation with the air traffic controllers’ union undermined the bargaining power of American workers.
posted by homunculus at 2:35 PM on August 3, 2011


Even looking from across the Atlantic it seems sad to watch what is happening to the USA. It's a pity that the Democrats couldn't get more of the agenda through when they had 60 in the Senate, frankly.
posted by jaduncan at 2:43 PM on August 3, 2011


I see a trainwreck ahead for the GOP.

Too bad that train is the US, we're all passengers, and the GOP is hanging out the engine window yelling at the passengers that it's ok, they've got control of the runaway beast now, don't worry, they're just going to dismantle it a little as we speed along.

honest question: Does the GOP (or the TP) have political capital? I don't feel like they're pushing their will around because the nation has their back. I feel like they're pushing their will around because they're the only ones who are ok with the "do nothing at all" half of "we do it my way or we do nothing at all."

Honestly, I think you're partially right. I was just bringing up the point that many Democratic party members on here think the President and other Democratic members of congress need political capital to work. There's always the excuse that Obama isn't a King, that they must act within the bounds of the political system and the presidency is actually a really weak office.

What the Republicans have shown is that you just need to get your agenda done. After that, you can get your political capital, or better yet, prevent the other party from getting theirs.

But, at the same time, as The Onion and several other articles have pointed out, the debt-limit deal really was a loss for the Democrats, regardless of the spin coming from them. And due to the "winners are strong" nature of US politics, that transfers into political capital for the GOP.
posted by formless at 2:55 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


People seem to be commenting with the assumption that the FAA's inability to collect taxes is a universally agreed upon bad thing that both parties need to come together and fix. I don't think that's correct. I would suggest that Republicans view it as a good thing since a tax you can't collect is virtually a tax reduction. "Starve the beast" Republicans aren't trying to increase revenue via tax reductions and the Laffer Curve and all that crap... the whole point is to decrease revenue so that government stops functioning. Broken government isn't a problem to them; broken government is the goal.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 2:58 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


People seem to be commenting with the assumption that the FAA's inability to collect taxes is a universally agreed upon bad thing that both parties need to come together and fix.

If we want to reduce taxes, then let's discuss that and come up with a reasonable plan to do so. We can talk about whether we can afford to reduce taxes, how much said taxes should be reduced, and whether the #1 priority should be reducing taxes on airline tickets of all things. What is a universally agreed upon bad thing, or what should be anyway, is to just suddenly shut off funding for airport safety inspectors and active construction projects, leaving thousands of workers high and dry, before Congress left town for five weeks.
posted by zachlipton at 4:00 PM on August 3, 2011


All disagreement aside, we still haven't hit bottom, yet. If you take a look at what has happened in the redistricting (gerrymandering) wars since the last census, it's clear that we are in for far more partisan politics than we saw over the last few months. This is now becoming more about which non-wealthy Americans can adapt, than finding a way to create a sustainable, relatively egalitarian culture that somehow overcomes the current limitations in the present paradigm.
posted by Vibrissae at 4:04 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


This time the politics got a bit hotter, with some labor issue vs. some issue of pork subsidizing local airports.

Um... no. It's about the first amendment right of association (unions) vs. funding to keep small airports modern and serviceable and not dooming them to be forever rural backwaters.

Part of the fight in Congress is about the Essential Air Services subsidy, which guarantees a minimum amount of commercial air services to small, underutilized, usually rural airports. It's a direct result of deregulation and was an effort to keep Bumfuck, North Dakota in the 20th century.

EAS currently costs on the order of $200 million per year. The FAA is slated to lose about a billion dollars in taxes if they're funding isn't restored until Labor Day. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.


Yes, thank you. That's what it's about. $200million over a year vs. $1billion over a month in taxes. Ridiculous.
posted by hippybear at 4:23 PM on August 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess my problem with card check regulations is that it is a way to form a union without ever letting anyone who might be against it know about it. You get your strongman to make people sign cards on the sly, and avoid anyone in the workplace who might want to campaign against a union. Blammo, get 51% of the cards, and workers are unionized with potentially 49% of them not even knowing about it.

That scenario probably isn't likely, but it is possible, and that's all that matters. If I have a right to associate, I have the right to not associate too. At the very least, the right to vote about it. Card check allows a slight majority to rule. Open elections at least gives 100% of the workers the right to vote about it or not.
posted by gjc at 5:03 PM on August 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


pwnguin writes "See, it took me a second to realize he wasn't referring to this TVTrope."

.
.
.
.
.
Five hours later.

Damn you pwnguin!
posted by Mitheral at 6:27 PM on August 3, 2011


Blammo, get 51% of the cards, and workers are unionized with potentially 49% of them not even knowing about it.

Very unlikely. That's why there's so many stories about the tyranny of management and not the tyranny of the workers.

Typically, the law works like this:

Cards get signed by workers and sent to NLRB. If the threshold is met, the NLRB notifies management. Management then gets to make a choice - either accept the card check and certify the union or call for a NLRB-run election.

Management usually chooses the election because it draws things out and gives them some opportunity to "encourage" (read harass and intimidate) workers to vote against the union.

So, ultimately, management gets to decide the process.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:46 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blammo, get 51% of the cards, and workers are unionized with potentially 49% of them not even knowing about it.

Good luck doing something surreptitiously with at least 51% of your coworkers, and somehow managing to keep it a secret.

In any event, a majority is a majority. Last I checked there was no right to always have an opportunity convince other people that they're wrong. It seems incredibly unlikely that you could coerce many people into signing these cards without violating many laws (and getting caught) in the process.
posted by schmod at 7:24 PM on August 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


That scenario probably isn't likely, but it is possible, and that's all that matters. If I have a right to associate, I have the right to not associate too. At the very least, the right to vote about it. Card check allows a slight majority to rule. Open elections at least gives 100% of the workers the right to vote about it or not.

The argument over the dangers of Card Check versus the current secret ballot system pretty much boils down to which one you truly believe is more open to harassment and intimidation by the parties working for or against it. Granted part of this is because Card Check remains mostly a hypothetical practice and not one that's being used in the U.S., but much like the constant screams of "voter fraud" by Republicans that turn out to not be true, it would be nice if maybe, you know, some widespread examples of union leaders somehow strong-arming half of an entire company's workforce were presented instead of merely proposed.

Because, you know, in the current situation, there's absolutely no evidence of employers trying to stop a union intimidating workers, forcing them into hours-long "mandatory meetings" where it is "suggested" what would happen if a union was formed, flat-out threatening to close an entire store to stop a union, actually closing entire stores to stop a union, and so on and so on. Right. Yep.

Any form of union drive or election is subject to fraud on both sides. I guess I'm just going have to continue being of the position that one is far more likely to face harassment and intimidation from one's boss than one's co-worker, especially where proof of the former exists a hundred times moreover.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:29 AM on August 4, 2011 [6 favorites]


Remember how Wal-Mart decided to shut down every butcher shop in every store they owned and pay extra for pre-packaged meat just specifically so they could get rid of the only union that ever successfully formed in Wal-Mart?

Yeah, I'm not seeing workers, or "union thugs", being the problem here.
posted by sotonohito at 6:33 AM on August 4, 2011


Can we please start having legitimate public discussions about Anarchism now?

Seriously.

I wish someone with balls would just come out and say they are for market anarchism in America; the no tax, no spend option. Yea yea, Grover Norquist said the "drown it in a bathtub" thing - but I don't even think he took that hyperbole as a metaphor for advocating market-anarchism.

So can we stop pussy footing around, because taken to the logical extent of the argument made by the tea-party (even though they don't know it) the only form of government that is morally right is no-government. At least we could start a damn debate on some sure footing.
posted by AndrewKemendo at 6:41 AM on August 4, 2011


@AndrewKemendo Well, that's the thing, they aren't really in favor of market anarchism, if they were they'd be rejecting bailouts and restrictions on unions.

What they want is either market communism, or market aristocracy depending on which you want to emphasize.

Both work I think. In both Communism and aristocracy there's an elite class (official in aristocracy, unofficial and officially denied to exist in Communism) which isn't subject to the same rules the plebs are, and which is essentially a parasite on the state.

They want to gamble with the economy and have the government spend trillions bailing them out when they fail. If they were in favor of market anarchism that would mean they'd take the fall when they completely mess things up. Under market aristocracy/Communism the state socializes risks while leaving gains private. The only people who suffer are the peasants/proletariat, the elites are never disturbed by tiny things like markets collapsing.

Same goes for unions. In a situation of market anarchy unions could form freely and with no legal difficulty (union busting private security firms are, of course, a different matter). But they don't want market anarchy, they want market Communism/aristocracy, one set of rules for the elites, a different set for the masses. They want the heavy hand of government making unionizing as difficult as possible; well, actually they want unions banned by law, but short of that they'll take just making the formation of unions extremely difficult.

I'm not a fan of market anarchy at all, but it is different from the sort of market Communism/aristocracy they propose.
posted by sotonohito at 9:29 AM on August 4, 2011


Gov’t Asks FAA Safety Inspectors for a Big No-Interest Loan
posted by homunculus at 9:39 AM on August 4, 2011


Can you imagine the howls that would be coming from Limbaugh and Beck if a Democrat had talked of holding hostages, shooting, and ransoming?
posted by bitmage at 9:42 AM on August 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, when pressed about the fact that airlines have been raising their basic fares and pocketing the difference rather than passing savings on to their customers with the the temporary suspension of the fare tax, Eric Cantor had this to say:
CANTOR: And what airlines have done is have stepped in and said, well, if we’re not going to pay that money to the federal government, we’re going to keep it towards our own bottom line. And I guess that’s what business does.
So much for voodoo economics. We're now firmly in the realm of fantasy economics.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:59 AM on August 4, 2011


Washington’s New Gridlock Physics
posted by homunculus at 10:12 AM on August 4, 2011


sotonohito writes "so they could get rid of the only union that ever successfully formed in Wal-Mart?"

They also shuttered a WalMart in Jonquière, Quebec to get rid of a union and has pulled out of the German market entirely to avoid union activities.
posted by Mitheral at 10:18 AM on August 4, 2011


It is waaaay past time to start calling many of the Tea Bagger representatives of the right what they really are - domestic terrorists. They've latched onto union hate and "no tax hikes" as absolute mantra and use them to hold the whole fucking country hostage at every turn.

They may as well be screaming, "Fuck America. Fuck American workers. Fuck American rights. Either we get what we want, the way we want it, or we're blowing the whole thing up."

It's disgusting, it's unfair, and it is absolutely anti-American.


Patently ridiculous. Terrorists kill and threaten people with death. Hostage takers kill and threaten to kill. You can't point to any sort of violent behavior in this FAA dispute--because there hasn't been any. Some people oppose high subsidies for air service for a few people. They also oppose allowing government workers to organize. Neither of these stances is violent.

Furthermore, this argument is being hashed out in a peaceful manner through established institutions and the democratic process. No property has been destroyed. No bodily harm has occurred. This is not "anti-American." Instead, this is precisely the system that we have devised to work out our differences.

Statements such as this one that came from the other side of the political spectrum were roundly denounced in the wake of the shooting of Congresswoman Giffords. Yet statements like this one, and many others, show that ridiculous hyperbole such as this comes from all sides of the political spectrum. It disgusts and saddens me to see this hateful bile spewed in this forum and lauded by those who read it.
posted by massysett at 11:25 AM on August 4, 2011


No property has been destroyed.

About 8% of my retirement fund evaporated in a week, probably permanently, because of Republican terrorists fucking around with our shared economy. Luckily, I'm young enough to keep throwing money into it, but I'll raise my hand and point out my property was destroyed by Republicans and the Tea Party, and what meager wealth I worked hard for may not ever be recovered because of long-term losses of confidence in the American economic system. Because of economic terrorism by right-wing extremists.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:41 AM on August 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think you're missing something massysett. The talk about "hostage taking" isn't rhetoric from the other side of the aisle. It originated in remarks that right wing web sites and political leaders have been making to the effect that the congress should have been willing to "shoot the hostage."

McConnell said this:
What we did learn is this — it's a hostage that's worth ransoming. And it focuses the Congress on something that must be done.'
The political right are the ones describing their own tactics as "hostage taking," so what, no one else is allowed to use their own characterizations of what they're doing? Or it's suddenly off limits when the language is used by critics?
posted by saulgoodman at 11:43 AM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


It disgusts and saddens me to see this hateful bile spewed in this forum and lauded by those who read it.

Sorry, we'll have to agree to disagree.

First, as mentioned above, they are self-proclaimed hostage takers.

Second, every budgetary bill that comes up these days is automatically attached by the right with some kind of anti-union ultimatum and a steadfast denial of any other way to manage funds other than take it from the workers.

What's hateful and full of bile is the right's insistence on turning everything into a culture war. Thousands of Americans died in the streets to raise the American worker out of the gutters at the turn of the last century, and anyone who insists on turning back the clock is wrong.(And make no mistake, they are trying to turning back the clock. And succeeding to a large extent.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:45 AM on August 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holding people's retirement savings, access to credit card debt, and credit card debt interest rates hostage is an act of extortion whether it involves the immediate threat of physical violence to accomplish it or not. It's still considered extortion when someone steals your car and ransoms it. Holding our economic well-being hostage is no less radical or violent than holding our bank accounts hostage.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:46 AM on August 4, 2011


Some people oppose high subsidies for air service for a few people. They also oppose allowing government workers to organize. Neither of these stances is violent.

Furthermore, this argument is being hashed out in a peaceful manner through established institutions and the democratic process. No property has been destroyed. No bodily harm has occurred. This is not "anti-American." Instead, this is precisely the system that we have devised to work out our differences.


See, I don't think that it's a reasonable use of the democratic process to shut down large portions of the FAA (safety inspectors, airport construction, collection of taxes on airline tickets) and pull 100,000 construction workers off the job in order to debate the level of subsides for rural air service and the rules for unionization of government workers.

It's not physically violent no, as should be obvious, but the tactic comes down to "agree with us or we'll destroy it." That's what we're objecting to here.

Imagine a community with a big open square in the middle. Some citizens want to use the square to hold a three-day rap festival, while others are appalled at the idea. That's a legitimate debate, and through the democratic process a decision can be made. What's happening here is that one group of politicians is saying "if we can't have the rap festival and four more events just like it, then no one gets to use the square" and they shut it down entirely, erecting a giant fence. Now the knitting circle and the picnickers and the youth soccer league can't use the square either.

In other words, the politicians have held the square hostage, or if you prefer, they are using extortion to achieve their goals. They are not debating the merits of the rap festival and trying to compromise; they are dispensing a stiff penalty to the entire community if they don't get their way. That's what's happening here.
posted by zachlipton at 12:39 PM on August 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


A deal has been reached.
posted by BobbyVan at 1:03 PM on August 4, 2011


The next big labor brawl: Unions ramping up for showdown over FAA
posted by homunculus at 12:08 PM on August 28, 2011


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