HOUSE REJECTS EFFORT TO REPEAL SECTION 13C OF FEDERAL TRANSIT ACT

HOUSE REJECTS EFFORT TO REPEAL SECTION 13C OF FEDERAL TRANSIT ACT

In a surprise win for beleaguered House Democrats and rail labor, the House rejected an effort by Republicans to repeal Section 13c of the Federal Transit Act which protects the collective bargaining and employment rights of bus and subway workers nationwide.

The repeal of Section 13c had been included as a rider to the fiscal 1996 transportation appropriations bill that was moving toward House passage Tuesday.The House voted 233-186 to accept an amendment sponsored by Rep. Ronald D. Coleman, D-Texas, stripping the repeal language from the appropriations bill.

"You don't have to crush the workers to get reform of 13c," Rep. Coleman had said after a parade of Democrats and some pro-labor Republicans spoke against the repeal, which had been pushed by Rep. Frank V. Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.

"Transit service is too high because working people can't afford it," Rep. Wolf said, arguing repeal of 13c would lead to substantial savings for transit systems nationwide.

"Let's think about folks who are riding the trains, who are paying the fares and let's think about their higher costs because of the waste imposed by 13c," said Rep. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark.

Section 13c of the Federal Transit Act requires that the Department of Labor certify a transit system is adequately protecting the collective bargaining rights of workers before the Department of Transportation can disburse grant funds to the system. Republicans and some transit system officials have complained the rule has been abused by unions that have held transit projects hostage to their demands.

While Democrats said there may have been some abuse of the system, they said 13c procedures should be reformed rather than repealed and they called for hearings before the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

"This is one more attack in the ongoing war of the Republican majority against the working men and women of America," said Minority Whip David Bonior, D-Mich.

"Why do these cost cutters always want to take it out of the hide of labor? Why do they always want to take it out of the paychecks of working people? This is wrong," said Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn.

"In its 30-year history, Section 13c has provided an extraordinary measure of stability in an industry that has undergone unprecedented change," Rep. Coleman said.