Bill would authorize back pay for furloughed workers

Furloughed employees at the Federal Aviation Administration would receive retroactive pay for the two weeks they were off the job under legislation introduced Tuesday in the House.

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., is sponsoring the bipartisan legislation that would authorize back pay for the 4,000 federal employees furloughed when the agency's funding expired July 23 after Congress failed to come to an agreement. The funding for the retroactive pay would come from the Aviation Trust Fund.

President Obama on Friday signed a temporary measure that funds FAA through Sept. 16, and those employees returned to their jobs Monday.

Several Republicans joined LoBiondo in introducing the back pay legislation: Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla.; House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y.; Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga.; and Rep. Jon Runyan, R-N.J. Virginia Democrat Gerry Connolly co-sponsored the bill.

"For the past two weeks it was important to get these workers back on the job," LoBiondo said in a statement. "Now my focus is to get them back pay and to ensure this avoidable situation never happens again." LoBiondo, whose district includes workers who were affected by the furlough, sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Essential employees who remained on the job will receive retroactive pay for the time they worked during the partial shutdown, as per usual shutdown protocol. In addition, the 40 airport safety inspectors who were on the job during the furlough and have been paying travel and work-related expenses out of their own pockets will be reimbursed.

"Congressman LoBiondo is a steady and consistent supporter of workers, including federal employees," said Matt Biggs, assistant to the president and legislative and political director at the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. "He has a long-standing history of standing with government workers at both the federal and state levels so his introduction of this bill comes as no surprise to IFPTE members."

Biggs said that LoBiondo's support should serve as an example "for others in his Republican caucus that workers should not be used as a political pawn to fulfill an ideological goal."

The FAA standoff began as a dispute between House Republicans and the Democrats over rural airport subsidies, but it has since grown into a broader blame game about who is responsible for failing to grant long-term funding for FAA. The two parties also have been at odds over a labor provision that would overturn a National Mediation Board decision that would make it easier for rail and aviation workers to unionize. That issue also will come up again when Congress reconvenes in September.

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