By Sholnn Freeman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 26, 2009 8:09 AM
Long-time Senate aide Robert T. Herbert, in his bid for the top job at the Federal Aviation Administration, appears to be making headway against a rival backed by Washington's labor establishment.
Herbert advises Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on transportation, defense and homeland security issues. Herbert has been locked in dogfight with Duane Woerth, a former president of the Air Line Pilots Association. Both men are regarded within Washington aviation circles as accomplished aviators and qualified to run the agency.
Woerth was identified as the leading contender for the job early on, and has the backing of the AFL-CIO. But Herbert has been pushing back. Reid sent a letter of support on behalf of Herbert to the Obama transition team last month. Additionally, Herbert met late last week with incoming Transportation Secretary Ray H. LaHood, the same day LaHood was confirmed to the post by the Senate.
Herbert has been working hard to soften union resistance, reaching out to the leadership of the many aviation-related labor unions. A top official at one union said the group had already quietly signaled that the union 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.