An uproar over lapses by U.S. air traffic controllers will spill into Congress where critics of organized labor see an unexpected opening to push their agenda into sweeping aviation legislation.
Embarrassing disclosures of controllers sleeping on duty -- even allowing first lady Michelle Obama's plane to fly too close to another jet -- have heightened scrutiny of the Federal Aviation Administration and raised questions about the agency's ability to manage its workforce and ensure safety.
Republicans see the furor as a way to force certain proposals into a final version of a $59 billion aviation bill that lawmakers will thrash out when Congress returns in May.
These include proposals to privatize more airport towers, consolidate facilities and give FAA management more flexibility in running the sprawling air traffic system. All are part of a larger Republican effort to cut FAA spending by $4 billion.
"Sleeping on the job, near misses - those give me more ammunition when I go into negotiations," John Mica, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Transportation Committee, told Reuters in an interview.
"I think this will affect it," Mica said of the air traffic control controversies, adding that he may seek new provisions in the bill on disciplinary remedies for the worst types of mistakes made by controllers.
Lobbying on the $59 billion aviation bill will heat up in coming weeks. The legislation is already under a White House veto threat due to a provision that would to make it harder for airline and railroad unions to organize.
The House and Senate have approved different versions of the bill and will try to reconcile them in negotiations. The National Air Traffic Controllers Association and its Democratic supporters believe Mica's cost-savings agenda is anti-union.
So when Republicans succeed in destroying unions and prohibiting all collective bargaining in the country, do you think you'll earn more money as a result? Do you think by forcing concessions and lowering benefits and wages, you'll get better, more qualified air traffic controllers, pilots, teachers, police officers, firefighters, etc? After all, since we're playing the Republican Galtie game, we're assuming that the very idea of these professions themselves are detrimental to society, otherwise why would we be seeking to punish them? If we cut teacher salaries, who's going to want to be a teacher?
Does anyone here think Republicans slagging these union professions will make America's students become more likely to say "Boy, I want to be a teacher, even though my parents think I'll be an over-educated ivory tower elitist working to indoctrinate America's youth!"
I really do want someone to explain to me how singling out unionized employees as lazy, evil, moochers and looters and doing everything in our power to make people not want to join these professions or want to stay in them at all will magically give us better people in these professions.
Or gosh, is this just a ploy to destroy labor rights that our great grandparents fought for, in order to complete the transformation of America into a corporate state?