By Keith Laing
“Under the previous rules, if an airline had 4,000 nonunion employees, 2,001 or more (a majority of all employees) were required to approve a proposal to unionize,” Harclerode explained. “Following the 2010 rule change, if only 1,000 of the 4,000 employees vote, and 501 vote yes, all 4,000 become subject to unionization.”
Harclerode called that “a fundamental change to long-standing election rules under the Railway Labor Act” that, he said, was outside the NMB’s jurisdiction.
“Any change in the way elections are conducted under the Railway Labor Act is properly the authority of the United States Congress,” he said.
Harclerode added that both aviation and railroad workers were already unionized at higher rates than most business employees. About 60 percent of U.S. airline employees and 84 percent of railroad workers are represented by unions, he said, compared to about 7 percent of the private sector.
Earlier Tuesday, the AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department and other industry unions called the rules change undemocratic. They also argued that changes to the methods of organizing should not be handled in the FAA bill.
“The crux of what’s going on is fair elections in union elections,” said former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner in a conference call arranged by the AFL-CIO. “There is no excuse to treat union elections (differently) than other elections. If we had an election (in Ohio) where people on the rolls but didn't show were counted as voting for say, the incumbent, I couldn't certify that. People wouldn't trust it.”
The FAA bill has been delayed for more than three years, although Mica said Tuesday during a speech to the National Association of Counties that it would be approved within 50 to 60 days. Prior to the union flap, Democrats had pushed the measure as an “aviation jobs bill.”