Jimmy Hoffa and the boys have changed the rules of airline union elections, and
now are rubbing their hands together in anticipation of achieving one of their
Holy Grails — the increased prospects of unionizing Delta Airlines in the wake
of its merger with Northwest Airlines.
One obstacle standing in their way is today’s Senate vote on S.R. 30, by Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonGOP senators wary of nuking filibuster SENATE: Republicans defy odds to keep majority A banner year for U.S. leadership on aid effectiveness MORE (R-Ga.), which would reject the new election rules and restore 75 years of precedent on how union elections are held in the railroad and airline industries.
The stage was set for this showdown when, on May 11, 2010, the little-known National Mediation Board (NMB) finalized regulations that changed union organizing elections in the railroad and airline industries from requiring a majority vote of all employees who would be unionized to a majority vote of all those who participate in the election.
Union organizers complained for years that the majority-rules provisions inhibited their attempts to organize under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which governs railroads and airlines. These complaints led President Carter to appoint a panel to look at the issue of union elections under the RLA. Carter’s panel concluded that the election procedure could only be amended by Congress and that the NMB did not have statutory authority to act.
More than 30 years later, the Democratic Party majority on the NMB has gone forward and changed the election procedures to help its union masters fill their coffers.
Ironically, in spite of union whining about the previous 75 years being unfair, more than 65 percent of all employees covered under the RLA are unionized, clearly showing that the previous election obstacle is anything but insurmountable. By comparison, only around 7 percent of the private-sector workforce that works under the National Labor Relations Act is unionized.
A primary reason for the establishment of the majority rule for the RLA is that there is not a mechanism within the RLA for workers to change unions. Once a union is in, it is in, and workers are pretty much stuck with it. As a result, the RLA union election process erred on the side of making certain that affiliation with a specific, or any, union was the will of a majority of those who would be represented.
Over the past 75 years, the RLA has worked as a means of forcing labor and management collaboration in order to keep the goods and services that our nation depends upon moving food and services over fixed rail and through airline hubs with minimal disruption.
In this role, the NMB has traditionally been somewhat collegial with Democrat and Republican appointees, working together to solve disputes and help those they regulate mediate their labor disputes in a manner that rarely resulted in debilitating strikes.
However, as Big Labor, which is beset by declining memberships and skyrocketing pension obligations, gets increasingly desperate, its appointees to the NMB are aggressively seeking to provide their benefactors an advantage. Bush appointee and NMB Chairwoman Elizabeth Dougherty wrote in her dissent to the new rule that making the change “would be an unprecedented event in the history of the NMB.”
Dougherty added, “[T]his independent agency has never been in the business of making controversial, one-sided rule changes at the behest of only labor or management.”
Today, the Senate will vote on whether to reject this blatant power-grab. Let’s hope they have the courage to do it.
Rick Manning is the communications director of Americans for Limited Government and formerly served as the public affairs chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Labor and nine years as a lobbyist for the National Rifle Association.