By Greg Principato and Jim Hoffa
Published by Aviation Daily Mar. 1, 2010
President Obama recently visited Las Vegas, a city with a 13% unemployment rate. Not surprisingly, it was an airline employee who asked how he would bring jobs and tourism back to the community. The President’s response pleased us both:
“If we can upgrade those [air traffic control] technologies, then we could reduce delays,” he said. “We could reduce cancellations, we could reduce the amount of time that it takes when there’s bad weather for planes to land, and all that would also help improve profitability in the airline industry, which in turn would mean that they would be able to hire more workers and provide outstanding customer service.”
That’s another way of saying that jobs would be created by reauthorizing spending for the Federal Aviation Administration. A lot of them, and for a long time.
The U.S. airline industry has been steadily shedding jobs for a year and a half. In December, scheduled passenger airlines had 3.3% fewer workers than they did a year ago. It was the 18th consecutive month in which employment dropped from the previous year.
That’s a big concern for the Teamsters Union, which represents every craft of workers in the airline industry. The Teamsters have contracts that cover more than 64,000 airline employees.
It’s also a big concern for ACI-NA. Airports are experiencing layoffs and furloughs. Further, in the past year, 35 airports lost all service and almost 300 more are down to only one carrier.
Our shrinking aviation system should be a concern to everybody. Declining air service means a drop in economic activity, and not just among airports and air carriers. Companies are more likely to expand into a region with reliable, convenient air transportation. Local leaders are always eager to bring air service to their communities because it attracts business investment.
That’s why we think it’s a no-brainer for Congress to pass FAA reauthorization, and soon.
While we don’t agree on everything in the House and Senate versions of the bill, we are in strong agreement about the overarching need to reinvigorate the aviation industry — and, in the process, put people to work.
Over the longer term, FAA reauthorization would create conditions for the next wave of economic growth. In the short term, the bill will immediately create good construction and technology jobs, giving local economies the jumpstart they need.
In Jim’s hometown, the Detroit Metropolitan Airport is reconstructing Runway 9L-27R, part of a $34.6 million rehabilitation project estimated to create 225 new jobs. While this project moved forward because of stimulus spending, it clearly shows that modernizing airport infrastructure creates jobs.
It’s a good news story that could — and should — be replicated at airports throughout the country. The FAA reauthorization bill would allow billions to be spent on upgrading and expanding airports throughout the country. It is expected to create 125,000 jobs annually.
What’s more, the funding comes from user fees — not from the federal budget.
Eight short-term extensions to the FAA’s spending authority have slowed construction of these important airport improvements. Uncertainty over future funding has forced airports to defer projects. If it isn’t authorized soon, the 2010 construction season could be lost.
Both of us fear that much more will be lost if Congress doesn’t quickly summon the will to tackle the problems faced by our aviation system. It is important to remember this is a jobs generator that is already on the congressional “to do” list.
It’s time to pass FAA reauthorization.
Jim Hoffa is General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters and Greg Principato is President,
Airports Council International-North America
To read archived articles from General President Hoffa, click here.