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Deck Stacked Against Airline, Railroad Workers


Deck Stacked Against Airline, Railroad Workers

by James Parks, Dec 8, 2009

Proposed rule changes for airline and rail union elections are overdue and will make the current process more democratic, transportation union leaders say. Yesterday was the last day for comments on the new rule, and workers are urging the agency to act quickly to correct the unfair election process.

Currently, elections in these industries require that all eligible workers who do not vote are arbitrarily assigned a “No” vote. This veto by silence is completely at odds with the principles of U.S. democracy. The National Mediation Board (NMB), which oversees airline and rail union elections, has proposed rule changes that would permit a majority of workers who actually vote to decide the election and stop assigning “No” votes to workers who do not participate.

“The deck is currently stacked against airline and railroad workers,” says AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Edward Wytkind.

With this change, never again will workers in these industries seeking to form a union be thwarted by such undemocratic rules.

Testifying at a NMB public hearing yesterday, Wytkind said:

This compulsory voting standard has, in turn, fostered a unique culture of voter suppression as companies understand that impeding union organizing merely requires preventing employees from voting. During union elections, companies seek to decrease voter turnout and thereby defeat an organizing drive not by winning an actual vote on the merits, but rather through carefully managing a low turnout.

The NMB has the authority and ability to make the proposed changes on its own. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that the NMB has broad discretion to determine how union elections will be conducted and that its current voting procedures are not required by law. Wytkind said it is time to make the changes:

It is time to permit airline and rail workers to vote on the question of unionization under the same democratic standards used in all other elections—from union elections conducted under other labor laws to congressional elections.

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