Oversight of Working Conditions for Airline Ground Workers

2167 Rayburn House Office Building

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0 Wednesday, January 15, 2020 @ 10:00 | Contact: Justin Harclerode 202-225-9446

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Aviation.

Official Transcript

Witness List:

Ms. Eileen Higgins, Commissioner, Miami-Dade County | Witness Statement  
. Donielle Prophete, Vice President, Communications Workers of America Local 3645 | Witness Statement 
Mr. Esteban Barrios, Service Employees International Union | Witness Statement 
Ms. Marlene Patrick-Cooper, President, Unite Here Local 23 | Witness Statement 
Dr. Brian Callaci, Labor Economist | Witness Statement
Mr. Chris Harrison, Airlines for America | Witness Statement
Mr. Russell Brown, RWP Labor | Witness Statement 

Opening remarks, as prepared, of Subcommittee on Aviation Ranking Member Garret Graves (R-LA):

This hearing touches on a topic that this subcommittee and quite honestly most airline passengers seldom consider.  Below-the-wing workers, aircraft cleaners, caterers, and wheelchair pushers may not have as high-profile jobs as flight attendants, mechanics, and pilots, but the services they provide are necessary to ensuring a safe, efficient, and comfortable flying experience for the travelling public.

Across all modes of transportation, safety is this committee’s and subcommittee’s highest priority.  Commercial aircraft accident fatalities are at the lowest level in history, but in the last decade, some ground workers have been injured or killed due to on-the-job accidents.  It is important for this subcommittee to hear what can be done by the FAA, industry, and labor to improve safety for airline ground workers.

Contracting for services is an essential part of all industries, and aviation is no exception.  There are many airline-related services that have always been contracted out by nearly all airlines.  Others are contracted at airports where, due to the low frequency of flights, it would simply be economically infeasible to provide air service without the use of contract workers.

To the small or rural communities served, airlines provide jobs, connections, and economic opportunities.  If airlines were unable to contract airside services, they would not be able to continue serving these communities.

It is also crucial that this subcommittee understand the role and importance of the Railway Labor Act to United States air transportation.  In Europe, near constant strikes keep railroads and airlines in a state of uncertainty and disarray.  Both airlines and aviation workers in this country have thrived under the oversight of the National Mediation Board because of its efforts to promote compromise and accommodation while discouraging strikes.  Unions wishing to organize new categories of aviation employees must recognize how vital systemwide representation is to the continued success of aviation and the nearly 750,000 workers directly employed by airlines.

I look forward to hearing from the witnesses about the role of this critical transportation labor law.

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