Long-time Senate aide Robert T. Herbert, who wants the top job at the Federal Aviation Administration, appears to be making headway against rival Duane Woerth, who is backed by Washington’s labor establishment, according to a Jan. 26 Washington Post story by Sholnn Freeman.
Herbert advises Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on transportation, defense and homeland security issues. Woerth is a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association. Both are regarded, within Washington aviation circles, as accomplished aviators who are qualified to run the agency.
Woerth, the leading contender for the job early on, has the backing of the AFL-CIO but Reid reportedly has sent a letter of support on behalf of Herbert to the Obama transition team. In addition, Herbert met with incoming Transportation Secretary Ray H. LaHood on the very day LaHood was confirmed to the post by the Senate.
Herbert also has been working to soften union resistance to him. According to Freeman, a top official at one (un-named) union said the group had already signaled “behind the scenes” that it wouldn’t get into a fight with other unions over Woerth. The FAA’s two largest labor unions, the National Air Traffic Controllers Association and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, have clashed with the FAA over pay and work rules for years. LaHood has said the transportation department will make a top priority of settling Bush-era labor disputes.
Another Washington Post writer, Al Kamen, commented further under the heading, “Reid Is His Co-Pilot,” in his “The Loop” column. Herbert “appears to be making headway against a rival backed by Washington’s labor establishment,” Kamen wrote on Jan. 27. “Herbert…has been locked in a dogfight” with Woerth, Kamen wrote, but “neither, we’re told, has set the Obama team on fire, so it remains a tossup.”