In what is being called “backdoor cardcheck” by opponents and “fairness” by proponents the National Mediation Board instituted a change in the union representation election process that will make it easier for unions to organize airlines under the Railway Labor Act. Currently in a representation election under the RLA people in the proposed bargaining unit who do not vote in the election are counted as a “NO” vote. That 75 year precedent has now been reversed and the now Democratic party controlled NMB says that only votes cast will be counted thus making it easier to win representation if the union is more effective in mobilizing voters. (Under the National Labor Relations Act, which governs non-railroad/airline union activity, that is the way elections are held.)
The controversy comes from two actions of the NMB. First, this method of election has stood for 75 years, surviving two Supreme Court tests. Yet as soon as the NMB has a majority of Democrat Party members, the method is changed. The chair, Elizabeth Dougherty, a Republican, cast a dissenting vote, saying the actions where not reasonably explained. Many Republican Senators and anit-union employers and employee organizations protest that the NMB does not have the legal authority to make this change and they have filed legal challenges.
The other area of controversy comes from the fact that the same change was not made for the decertification election process. So the actions seem very biased in favor of those that want unions and against those that would like to get rid of a union. This difference of action has smacked of political pay back for the unions that gave so much money to the Democrat Party and the Obama administration.
The reason this is important to pay attention to is that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which controls labor decisions in the private sector, is also now controled by the Democrat Party. Might we also expect political payback “tainted” decisions from them? Many surmise that we will see a slew of such decisions with the reversal of previous decisions, an announcement that has already been made. So if you are in the private sector, being aware of NLRB decisions and actions will be very important for you to pay attention to. You may see decisions the will:
- May the Employee Free Choice Act unnecessary, thus taking a controversial bill out of the limelight.
- May make employers provide “union type” rights to non-union employees, such as the right to have a representative in a disciplinary process.
- May shorten the time companies will be allowed to campaign against union representation.
The vote in the Senate on the legality of the changes made in the Railway Labor Act by the National Mediation Board will be a telling one. If it is made on strict party lines the changes will be upheld. If Senators vote on the merits of overturning a 75 year rule then the vote may be different. Pary line votes will then empower the NLRB to make similar decisions and dealing with union activity in the private sector will become much more problematic.