Labor-Backed FAA Bill is Victory for Workers Across Aviation Industry

May 8, 2024

Bill includes top Cantwell priorities to address shortages, improve worker safety, build workforce pipeline   

AFL-CIO: “The agreement’s array of provisions advances the rights of workers, from growing the workforce to improving safety and health on the job.”


America’s aviation workers have overwhelmingly voiced their support for legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which includes huge labor and workforce priorities led by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash).  

“Our bill gives the aviation workforce the tools and the platform they need. It's talking about machinists, about engineers, about mechanics, about pilots, about flight attendants, about baggage handlers, about maintenance workers – the people who are really part of the backbone of an aviation economy,” Sen. Cantwell said on the Senate Floor.

“The bipartisan agreement reached to reauthorize the FAA is a victory for workers across the aviation industry,” said Liz Shuler, President, AFL-CIO. “From production to operation and maintenance, our aviation affiliates, owning their power as essential contributors to the American economy and way of life, made their voices heard. This agreement shows that lawmakers listened. The agreement’s array of provisions advances the rights of workers, from growing the workforce to improving safety and health on the job. And, to boot, these improvements will help keep the flying public safe. On behalf of our 12.5 million members, we are grateful to our allies in Congress who pushed for the reauthorization of this critical agency, and we look forward to Congress sending it to President Biden’s desk.” 

The Bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act H.R. 3935 makes investments to
grow and support the aviation workforce:

  • Addresses Air Traffic Controller Shortages: With a shortage of approximately 3,000 air traffic controllers nationwide, the bill requires the FAA to implement improved staffing standards, developed with the labor workforce, to close staffing gaps. The bill requires the FAA to set maximum hiring targets to increase air traffic controller staffing. To improve training, the bill increases access to high-quality advanced training by deploying more high fidelity tower simulation systems in FAA air traffic control towers. These systems have been proven to reduce the training backlog and time it takes for controllers to reach certification by 27%.
  • Jumpstarts Hiring for the FAA Safety Workforce: The bill requires the FAA to update its aviation safety inspector model for a more accurate assessment of the number needed to perform safety oversight to boost hiring of manufacturing safety inspectors, engineers and technical specialists per year. The bill requires the FAA to better leverage its direct hire authority to fill key safety positions related to aircraft certification and address gaps in FAA’s safety workforce.
  • Builds the Aviation Pipeline, Improving Workforce Recruitment and Education: The bill expands the Aviation Workforce Development Grant Program and increases funding to $60 million per year through FY 2028 to grow the aviation workforce pipeline through the education and recruitment of pilots, unmanned aircraft systems operators, maintenance technicians, aerospace engineers and aircraft manufacturing technical workers.
  • Brings Veterans into Aviation Careers: The bill streamlines the transition for servicemembers to civil aviation maintenance careers with a new military mechanic test and more FAA outreach. Currently, the aviation industry only captures less than 10% of military aviation maintenance technicians. The bill also grows the veteran pilot pool by establishing a competitive grant program at DOT to enable eligible flight training schools to recruit and train veterans, who are not already military aviators, to become commercial pilots and certified flight instructors. By covering costs beyond existing veteran education benefits, the measure will help grow the supply of qualified pilots to provide air service to rural communities.
  • Supports Women in Aviation: Currently, less than 10% of licensed pilots are women and less than 3% are airline captains. The bill establishes a new Women in Aviation Advisory Committee at DOT, as recommended by the Women in Aviation Advisory Board, to focus on bringing more women into aviation careers and the entire industry.
  • Improves Flight Attendant Self-Defense Training: The bill enhances self-defense training for flight attendants to better protect themselves and respond to unruly passenger incidents and other threats.
  • Improves Cabin Air Quality: The bill requires the FAA to further evaluate cabin air quality, establish a new method for reporting fume and smoke events for crewmembers and take action to address any relevant safety risks.
  • Strengthens the FAA’s Oversight of Foreign Repair Stations: The bill requires FAA oversight of foreign maintenance and repair stations working on U.S. aircraft to match that of U.S. maintenance and repair stations to ensure one level of safety. This provision also removes incentives to offshore U.S. aviation jobs to better protect and support U.S.-certified aircraft mechanics.
  • Recognizes the Importance of the Airport Service Workforce: The bill requires GAO to complete a comprehensive review and report relating to the domestic airport service workforce to examine its role and importance to the aviation economy. The DOT would also be able to convene a public working group with stakeholders to evaluate and discuss the report’s findings.
  • Supports Pilot Mental Health: The legislation establishes the Aeromedical Innovation and Modernization Working Group to modernize FAA’s evaluation of and approach to mental health and other conditions. The bill also improves the FAA’s ability to issue special medical approvals to address backlogs and get healthy pilots safely back to work.
  • Improves Ramp Worker Safety: The bill requires the development and comprehensive update of airport ramp worker safety policies and training to better protect ground crews employed by airlines and contractors who serve in critical roles to keep flights moving.

Read the support from the aviation workforce:

National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA)  
Representing more than 20,000 air traffic controllers and aviation professionals

“There are 10% fewer fully certified air traffic controllers than there were a decade ago. Committee leadership has done great work to reverse this staffing crisis. It’s not only about hiring and the leaders in both the House and Senate recognized this. They included the requirement for the FAA to collaboratively develop and install tower simulator systems in every FAA tower, a program that has been proven to reduce training time for air traffic controllers by over 25%. NATCA also applauds their plan for FAA to study and implement expansion of the FAA Academy’s capacity. These changes, as part of a comprehensive hiring, training, and staffing plan will, over the term of this five-year authorization bill, make great improvements to staffing our air traffic control facilities, which will reduce fatigue and improve safety and efficiency,” said Rich Santa, President, NATCA.

Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA)
Representing more than 67,000 pilots

“ALPA applauds the bipartisan leadership of members of Congress to keep safety and the preservation of collective bargaining agreements of pilots front and center in the FAA reauthorization bill. This FAA reauthorization deal strengthens our industry, making flying safer for passengers, cargo, and crew without weakening the protections that have created the safest period in aviation history, and ALPA urges swift passage of this agreement. This deal maintains our world-leading pilot training standards and rejects attempts to arbitrarily raise the pilot retirement age, which would have introduced uncertainty into the U.S. aviation system and made us an international outlier. We are grateful for the strong advocacy and proactive stance from airline pilots across the country who were able to prevent rollbacks to the current pilot-qualification standards,” said Capt. Jason Ambrosi, President, ALPA.

Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, AFL-CIO (AFA-CWA)
Representing 50,000 flight attendants at 19 airlines
“We urge Congress to pass the FAA reauthorization agreement without delay. This agreement will stabilize the FAA and provide it with the resources necessary to ensure America’s aviation system remains the gold standard for safety, security and connectivity. The agreement reached through the leadership of the committee chairs in the House and Senate addresses Flight Attendants’ key concerns. It moves the FAA in the correct direction on staffing and oversight of our industry, while rejecting poison pills that would harm workers and make our system less safe,” said Sara Nelson, President, AFA.

Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) 
Representing more than 27,000 American Airlines flight attendants
“This legislation equips the FAA with the much-needed, long-term resources to uphold the safety of our nation’s aviation system. We applaud the collaborative effort by leadership in both chambers to address issues of importance to Flight Attendants, including cabin air contamination, cabin temperature minimums and maximums, radiation exposure, passenger seat size, and inflight violence. The legislation is critical to steering the FAA toward improved staffing levels and safety oversight within our industry, while rejecting detrimental measures that could endanger workers and compromise safety,” said Julie Hedrick, National President, APFA.

International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT)
Representing more than 1.3 million workers
“The Teamsters Union is pleased that Congress heard our members loud and clear when we said that increasing pilot retirement age and continuing to allow unfettered outsourcing of aircraft maintenance jobs to foreign countries would be unacceptable. This bill puts the safety and economic well-being of airline workers first and we encourage Congress to pass it quickly,” said Sean M. O’Brien, General President, Teamsters.

“On behalf of tens of thousands of Teamsters airline members, we are proud to support this legislation to reauthorize the FAA. This bill prioritizes safety across the aviation system, protects good union jobs, and directly addresses essential priorities for Teamsters airline workers—from pilots to gate agents and every job in between,” said Bob Fisher, Interim Director, Teamsters Airline Division.

Transport Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO (TWU)
Representing 115,000 airline workers
“On behalf of more than 155,000 members of the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), the largest airline workers union in the U.S., I write to express our strong support for H.R. 3935, as amended, and to encourage you to bring it to the floor for final passage as quickly as possible. This bill is the result of more than a year of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations and will undoubtedly make our national airspace safer, improve the working conditions of airline workers, and return good, union jobs to the U.S. Importantly, the bill increases safety and security standards at foreign aircraft maintenance facilities by ending the FAA incentives that have long driven airlines to offshore good union jobs. It installs meaningful protections against the threat of assault on the job; rejects an attempt by airlines to exempt themselves from state and local labor standards; helps to combat toxic cabin air; and ends the unsafe practice of dispatching commercial aircraft from unsecure locations. These important provisions will strengthen our national airspace and ensure commercial air travel remains the safest form of transportation… The TWU unequivocally supports H.R. 3935 and we look forward to seeing it enshrined in law in the immediate future,” said John Samuelsen, International President, TWU.

Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD)
Representing 37 unions and hundreds of thousands of transportation workers
“As the largest transportation labor federation in the country, representing hundreds of thousands of aviation workers, TTD applauds the agreement reached by the House of Representatives and the Senate on the FAA reauthorization bill. It is crucial that air travel remains the safest mode of transportation in the world. We must prioritize the well-being of those who build, operate, and maintain our aviation system. This FAA bill enhances existing safety standards, ensures sustainable growth of the aviation workforce, facilitates improvements to infrastructure and service, and rejects any policy changes to raise the pilot retirement age. We look forward to swift passage of the FAA bill through each chamber of Congress, promising a stronger, safer industry for workers and passengers,” said Greg Regan, President, TTD.

International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM)
Representing more than 100,000 ramp workers, customer service agents, flight attendants and more in the air transport industry
“The IAM proudly represents a hard-working diverse membership of more than 100,000 air transport workers from customer service agents to ramp workers and flight attendants…This legislation offers some positive means to ensure the safety and well-being of workers and passengers…IAM strongly supports the FAA Reauthorization bill,” said Brian Bryant, President, IAM.

Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA)
Representing aircraft maintenance technicians and engineers
“The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 includes several key AMFA priorities. The bill would require foreign repair stations who repair U.S. aircraft to adhere to rigorous safety and inspection standards as U.S. repair stations. Additionally, it would provide $20 million per year for FAA’s grant program for AMT workforce development. It would also provide a pathway for military service members who work on aircraft to transition into civilian AMT careers. Finally, it would preserve whistleblower protections for AMTs to report safety concerns without fear of retaliation from their employers.”

“AMFA thanks Chairs Graves and Cantwell and Ranking Members Larsen and Cruz for their hard work negotiating this bipartisan, bicameral bill. The bill will help keep the American flying public safe while also protecting American jobs. We encourage Congress to move quickly to approve the legislation to ensure safe and efficient operations across the country,” said Bret Oestreich, National President, AMFA.

Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA)
Representing more than 17,000 engineers, technical workers, pilots and other aerospace professionals
“Reaching agreement on a bipartisan reauthorization bill was made possible by tireless efforts of key congressional leaders and their staff. We extend our gratitude to Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Their leadership has been instrumental in shaping a bill that not only bolsters our nation’s aerospace and aviation workforces but also fortifies the FAA, ensuring safer skies and a more robust aviation industry for generations to come,” said Brandon Anderson, Legislative Director, SPEEA.

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE)
Representing more than 90,000 professional employees, including aircraft manufacturing and aerospace engineers

“This bill is a commendable bipartisan achievement for the aircraft manufacturing workforce, aviation workers, the flying public, and the industry. The five-year reauthorization will invest in our world-leading aviation and aerospace industry, grow the skilled aviation workforce needed for 21st-century innovation, and strengthen our aviation system’s commitment to safety. IFPTE is especially pleased to see the Aviation Workforce Development Programs expanded to include a new aviation manufacturing technical workforce development grant program and increased funding throughout the grant programs. For our members who work in aircraft manufacturing – building our nation’s leading high-value export products – this commitment ensures that workforce development provides opportunities for the next generation of American aircraft manufacturing workers,” said Matthew Biggs, President; and Gay Henson, Secretary-Treasurer.

Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS)
Representing 11,000 FAA safety employees

“PASS is pleased with many of the provisions included in the five-year Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill that will be taken up on the Senate floor this week. The union worked with its allies on Capitol Hill to secure language that will increase funding and staffing for the 11,000 employees it represents at the FAA. We have been sounding alarm bells for more than a year about how inadequate staffing among both our Technical Operations and Aviation Safety workforces can have a detrimental impact on aviation safety. While the FAA Workforce Review Audit provision is welcome and necessary, the agency needs to move quickly on the staffing model for aviation safety inspectors. With all of the issues that have emerged around the safety culture at Boeing, it is imperative that this workforce be fully staffed so that they can more closely regulate manufacturers as well as the airlines,” said Dave Spero, National President, PASS.

Communications Workers of America (CWA)
Representing more than 700,000 workers from flight attendants to communications workers and more
“When enacted into law, this bill will provide strong new protections for workers and travelers. Importantly, this bill contains multiple important provisions that will protect the dignity and safety of passenger service agents on the job. Too many agents working on the tarmac have fallen victim to tragic accidents on the job in recent years. The FAA Reauthorization Act creates a Ramp Worker Safety Call to Action that will help address the dangers facing workers on the tarmac, including directing the FAA to create new training and education materials, and enabling the FAA to ensure that ramp workers receive needed training to remain safe on the job… Finally, we are pleased to see that the bill builds on the terrific rule recently enacted by the Department of Transportation (DOT) ensuring that passengers receive refunds after lengthy delays. CWA strongly supports DOT's rule and is appreciative that, through this bill, Congress is codifying into statute the right of passengers to receive refunds if they face lengthy delays. Doing so ensures that passengers will remain protected even under any future administration that is not as supportive of the rights of employees and passengers,” said Dan Mauer, Director of Government Affairs, CWA.

United Steelworkers
Representing 850,000 workers employed in industrial fields
“On behalf of the United Steelworkers (USW), the largest industrial union in  North America, I write urging swift passage of the bicameral, bipartisan Federal  Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2024…The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024 enhances existing safety standards, ensures sustainable growth of the aviation workforce, and facilitates improvements to infrastructure and service. For example, the agreement increases air traffic controller trainee hiring for the next five years, directs the FAA to develop a standardized reporting system to improve cabin air quality, expands unruly passenger assault protections to airline employees who perform functions outside of the aircraft, and rejects any policy changes to raise the pilot retirement age,” said David McCall, International President, USW.

Captain Sully Sullenberger
Pilot and Safety Advocate
“It is imperative that Congress pass the FAA Reauthorization Bill to fund safe air travel, and not just an extension, and keep pilot retirement age at 65.”

Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA)
Representing more than 11,000 pilots
“SWAPA applauds Senators Cantwell, Cruz, Duckworth, and Moran along with Representatives Sam Graves, Garret Graves, Larsen, and Cohen and members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee for reaching an agreement on a strong bill that enhances safety, improves the FAA’s aeromedical processes, and addresses mental health initiatives,” said Capt. Casey Murray, President, SWAPA.

NetJets Association of Shared Aircraft Pilots (NJASAP)
Representing more than 3,200 pilots
“Reaching agreement on the five-year reauthorization measure is due, in considerable part, to the tremendous work and dedication of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Sam Graves, R-MO, Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Chair Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-WA, House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Rep. Rick Larsen, D-WA, and Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Ranking Member Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX," said Capt. Coley George, Government Affairs Committee Chair, NJASAP.

“NJASAP is exceedingly pleased with the number of substantial, aviation-worker-focused enhancements featured in the bill. The innovation and modernization that characterize this measure makes clear that Congress has prioritized the safety, security and efficiency of the National Airspace System. Undeniably, the 2024 FAA Reauthorization measure features much-needed language that gives aviation interests – regulators, labor and operators – additional tools and resources that help mitigate the myriad of issues that challenge our industry,” said Capt. Pedro Leroux, President, NJASAP.