The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may partially shut-down later this month, while the U.S. Congress debates the unionization of the airlines industry, ahead of the expiration of a stop-gap funding measure on September 16.

In late July-early August, the FAA shutdown for almost two weeks – which led to 4,000 FAA employees and 70,000 contract workers to walk off the job, according to a report in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

That stalemate was ended by a Congressional compromise, however a principal point of the dispute – the right of airline workers to unionized – remains unresolved.

Indeed, the National Mediation Board (NMB) sought to make it easier for airline and railway workers to form unions.

This move is strongly opposed by Republican lawmakers and by airlines like Delta Air Lines (NYSE: DAL), which is primarily non-union.

John Mica, a Republican congressman from Florida, and House Transportation Committee Chairman, tried to overturn the NMB decision, but his step was rejected by the White House and the U.S. Senate.
Gina Laughlin, a spokeswoman for Delta said her company wants to see FAA funding extended, but not with the NMB provision for unionization.

“It’s about restoring fairness and balance to an agency [NMB] that’s supposed to operate in a neutral manner,” Laughlin said.

The FAA has been financed by short-term measures since 2007

In the spring of 2011, the House approved a four-year, $59.7 billion funding measure, while the Senate passed two-year $34.5 billion version. The government has not yet named a committee to hammer out the differences between these two proposals.

Labor leaders have criticized Delta for their intransigence.

The Communication Workers of America (CWA) union stated on its website: “Delta Air Lines is holding billions of dollars in funding for crucial FAA projects hostage by insisting that Congress pass new, undemocratic rules for airline workers trying to organize a union. Delta wants union elections to count workers who don't take part as voting No--an absurd demand that would undermine the entire system of majority-rule voting.”

Earlier this month Congress temporarily restored FAA funding but, on September 16, Delta's powerful allies in Congress could continue to insist on the new election rule, causing another shutdown. This shameful union-busting behavior cost U.S. taxpayers $200 million a week, delayed important airport infrastructure projects, and left thousands of FAA inspectors and other agency employees without a paycheck.  The recent shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration due to haggling over union-election rules is unacceptable.