ilivetodayav

The High Deserts Social Network Blog…

Aviation workers deal with politics-induced furloughs

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) — Some 4,000 furloughed aviation workers are the latest casualty of political infighting in Washington.

Families used to making $75,000 a year are filing for unemployment benefits and worrying how to make mortgage, car and student loan payments, furloughed workers say.

“It really is scary,” said Michael MacDonald, a 54-year-old Federal Aviation Administration engineer who lives outside of Boston. “For one week, you think OK, we can handle one week. But now the reality is starting to set in — this is going to take six weeks or more.”

The FAA has been partially shut down for more than a week, with only air traffic controllers, mechanics and those integral to keeping planes flying safely on the job.

The plight of 4,000 FAA workers has been overshadowed by greater commotion over raising the debt limit and spending cuts. But lawmakers have also been at odds over approving a routine stop-gap funding measure for the agency.

With the House adjourned, the funding impasse will likely grind on for FAA employees who are feeling the pinch of a lack of paycheck, not to mention perks such as like 401(k) retirement benefit contributions.

MacDonald works on updating communications systems for the FAA. He’s worried about paying his mortgage, car loans and college tuition for his two kids. He filed for unemployment benefits last week and has been urging his colleagues to do the same.

“I’ve never been in this situation before,” said MacDonald, a 20-year veteran of the FAA.

While many employees, especially single parents, are terrified of spiraling into debt, other FAA workers say they’re just furious that they’ve become the victims of partisan wrangling in Washington.

“For this to be about something so petty, it’s ridiculous. And terribly arrogant and totally uncaring,” said Steve Alexander, 59, who lives near Sanford, N.C.

Alexander’s last day on the job was July 22, when he finished upgrading the landing system at Memphis International Airport.

While Alexander saved up over a year to withstand this furlough, as a union representative, he has been talking to panicked colleagues who can’t afford to be out of work for weeks on end.

The partial shutdown impacts more than just federal workers. The FAA had to stop hundreds of airport construction projects nationwide, which means some 24,000 construction workers are also out of work. Another 35,000 support workers, such as food service vendors, are also impacted, said Steve Sandherr CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America.

http://i.cdn.turner.com/money/.element/apps/cvp/4.0/swf/cnn_money_384x216_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=/video/news/2011/04/26/n_southwest_air_traffic.cnnmoney

“This can’t go on a day longer, much less six weeks longer,” Randy Babbitt, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, told CNN on Tuesday

— CNN’s Mike M. Ahlers contributed to this report. To top of page

August 4, 2011 Posted by | aviation, aviation engineering government, engineering services, federal aviation, Federal Aviation Administration, professional services | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Congress hits beach, aviation workers hit unemployment lines

http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/.element/apps/cvp/3.0/swf/cnn_416x234_embed.swf?context=embed&videoId=politics/2011/08/03/tsr.rowlands.faa.funding.cnn

(CNN) — Neil Bolen has worked as a civil engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration for the past 24 years, designing air traffic control radar systems that help keep America moving.

Now he’s got a message for Congress: Get moving on a plan to save his job.

Bolen, a 48-year-old father of two from the Atlanta area, is one of thousands of Americans with ties to the aviation industry who are suddenly finding themselves out of work this summer because of Congress’s failure to pass routine legislation keeping the FAA funded. The House and Senate have gone on vacation, leaving Bolen on furlough.

He’s had no choice but to file for unemployment, prioritize which bills to pay, and dig into his family’s savings in order to make ends meet.

“Congress doesn’t care about me at all,” Bolen told CNN. “They’re not done with their work and they go on vacation. How do they do that?”

Bolen says he’s tried to “avoid politics as a rule” his whole life, but now he’s calling his congressman and senators — to no avail.

“It’s always somebody else’s fault” when you call their offices, he says. “It’s never our fault.”

The House adjourned Monday after a divisive vote to raise the national debt ceiling, leaving the Senate with an FAA funding extension bill it did not like and could not amend. So the Senate recessed Tuesday night without doing anything.

At issue is a decision by Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican, to add a provision to the funding extension cutting subsidies to rural airports. The measure is opposed by powerful Democrats such as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada.

There’s also a dispute over provisions that would make it easier for airline employees to unionize. Democrats support the section; Republicans generally oppose it.

Bolen and 4,000 other FAA employees are stuck in the middle of the dispute. But they’re not the only people being hurt. The FAA has stopped hundreds of airport construction projects nationwide, putting about 24,000 construction workers out of work.

Another 35,000 support workers, such as food service vendors, are also affected, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

The FAA says the impasse will also prevent the federal government from collecting approximately $200 million a week in airline passenger taxes — or about $1.2 billion during the congressional recess.

Other workers caught up in the mess share Bolen’s frustrating and growing anger with Congress.

“We’re into the politics of confrontation versus looking out for the interests for constituents,” said Troy Swanberg, a mechanical engineer from Chicago. “I’m really disappointed.”

He called the situation “unconscionable.”

Swanberg, 42, has worked for the FAA for 20 years and has a 2-year-old daughter. Like Bolen, he’s digging into his savings. He’s also looking for another job.

Robert Aitken, 47, works for the FAA in Burlington, Massachusetts. He’s been with the FAA for 18 years, and before that spent five years in the Navy. He has two children, ages 9 and 12.

“We’re just in shock that (Congress) actually did not get this done,” he told CNN. “We understand this is politics, but this is just insane.”

Aitken said he’s “very upset” Congress “didn’t think this was important enough to stick around for.” He stressed that it’s not just federal workers who are being hurt by the latest Washington stalemate.

“They’re going to put people out of business,” he warned. “Small companies will go under.”

Curtis Howe, 50, works for the FAA in Seattle. He helped build the control tower at nearby Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, among other things.

Recently, he and his wife took out a 15-year home equity loan in order to put a new roof on their house. Now he’s being forced to use that money to pay his regular bills.

“It’s almost like there’s a … dog walking down the road, and he picked up a hand grenade in his mouth and it’s going to go off. They don’t even know what they’re doing,” he said in reference to Congress. “Who are they? Are they better than us?”

“This is a clear attack on middle America,” Howe said. “This is a punch in the face. It’s terrible.”

 

 

 

August 4, 2011 Posted by | SDVOSB | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FAA furloughs unprecedented, officials say

A week after Congress failed to extend funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, officials are calling the furloughs triggered by the partial shutdown of agency operations unprecedented.

FAA furloughed 4,000 employees, including almost 1,000 in Washington, after lawmakers failed to reach a last-minute agreement on July 22 on a stopgap funding measure for the agency. Until Congress acts, FAA will not be able to collect federal taxes on airline tickets, which supply the trust fund used to pay employees. Officials estimate the agency is losing $30 million a day as a result of the partial shutdown.

Air traffic controllers are not part of the furlough, but many employees are, including engineering and electronics technicians, computer and logistics specialists, and support staff, among other workers. Those still required to work during the hiatus would receive pay retroactively once funding is restored. But Congress must approve back pay for employees subject to furlough. During the government shutdowns in 1995 and 1996, furloughed federal employees were paid retroactively for the time they were off the job; that might not be the case in the current situation at FAA given the tense political climate and the government’s fiscal woes. 

The impasse over extending FAA’s funding is having an impact on employees. “This is unprecedented,” said Kori Blalock Keller, a spokeswoman for the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, referring to the furloughs in general. “We are concerned about how this will shake out.”

An FAA spokeswoman agreed with Keller: “There have been furloughs before, but never like this,” she said. The agency has not had any difficulty getting employees who are considered essential to show up for work during the furlough, she added.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla., told Federal News Radio on Friday that he does not see an immediate end to the stalemate. The House and Senate are at odds over a labor provision in the House version that would overturn a National Mediation Board decision, making it easier for rail and aviation workers to unionize. In addition, the House bill, introduced by Mica, eliminates subsidies for airline service to airports located less than 90 miles from a medium or large hub, which has upset some lawmakers from rural areas.

Democratic lawmakers have called for an urgent vote on a clean extension of FAA funding in hopes of bringing 4,000 furloughed employees back to work.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee members, supported by other party members, on Tuesday introduced legislation that would extend FAA funding through the end of fiscal 2011 without any newly added provisions. A short-term authorization would allow the agency to operate while lawmakers negotiate a long-term bill, they said.

“PASS is frustrated and looking to Congress to make this right,” said Keller. “We’re on the same page as the FAA in that regard.”

Federal News Radio also reported on Friday that furloughed FAA employees could be eligible for a zero percent interest furlough relief loan from NASA Federal Credit Union.

 

August 1, 2011 Posted by | SDVOSB | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment