Obama Can Fix ‘Unreasonable Burdens On Business’

Katie Gage
February 15, 2011

Just over a year ago, and without a tremendous amount of attention from the national media, a little-known agency changed nearly a century of labor policy in favor of union bosses and to the detriment of workers in the airline and railway industries. The three-member agency known as the National Mediation Board (NMB) reversed a 75 year old precedent whereby a majority of a workforce was required to determine whether a collective bargaining unit had been formed. Under the new rule enforced by this regulatory agency, only a majority of those voting are needed to form a collective bargaining unit, meaning a small number of workers can decide every employee’s fate.

To demonstrate this point, if a company employs 100 railroad workers, one would think 51 votes are required to form a collective bargaining unit. But under the new rules, which upend labor policy upheld by both Republican and Democratic Administrations, only a majority of those voting are required to create the union. Therefore, if 50 workers vote, only 26 pro-union votes are needed, meaning 74 people are affected by the decision, whether they support unionization or not.

This assumes anyone not voting supports forming a collective bargaining unit. It drastically changes a basic principle that a majority of workers are required to change the work status of a place of employment. But if these are the rules to form a union, one would assume those same rules would apply to dissolve one, but nothing could be further from the truth. The NMB’s power grab is so extreme – in large part – because these same rules only apply for the certification not decertification of a bargaining unit, meaning more dues for labor bosses and fewer choices for workers.

In the previous Congress, an attempt was made to undue this radical action. Both Republican and Democratic Senators supported a Congressional resolution put forward by Senator Johnny Isakson, which would have overturned the National Mediation Board’s ruling, yet Big Labor had enough support in the U.S. Senate to stop the effort to reverse the “payback.”

One area with regard to this issue that has received little attention is who made the administrative rule change and why? First off, the request for the rule change was made in a private letter sent to the National Mediation Board by the Transportation Trades Division of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Secondly, one Obama appointee to the NMB – Linda Puchala is the former president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and the other – Harry Hoglander was the head of a pilot’s union. Needless to say, any objectivity on their part is non-existent.

And to make matters worse, a number of cases put forward by the unions were before the NMB prior to the rule change and coincidently, they were pulled and re-submitted soon after so that the new policy was put in place.

At a time when our national economy is struggling to distance itself from the Great Recession, an agency that’s charged with minimizing work stoppages and strikes in the airline and railroad industries has advanced an activist agenda that is so extreme that the third member of the National Mediation Board wrote in a dissent that the “the proposal was completed without my input or participation, and I was excluded from any discussions regarding the timing of the proposed rule.”

But today, there is some reason for hope that common sense will prevail in matters affecting airline and railway workers. The FAA Reauthorization legislation that will be marked up in the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee this Wednesday includes a provision to repeal the National Mediation Board enforced and union promoted voting rule change from last year. This revocation will ensure that a majority of a workforce must vote in favor of union representation the way they have for nearly one hundred years. The bill also directs the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation and the U.S. Comptroller General to evaluate the NMB’s activities and programs.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica is taking the lead in addressing this matter. According to Congressional Quarterly, “Mica’s bill also would nullify a National Mediation Board rule that went into effect in June. The rule changed the way ballots are counted in union elections. The NMB supervises union negotiations for the airline and rail industries governed by the Railway Labor Act.”

In addition, Representative Phil Gingrey from Georgia has introduced H.R. 548 named the Restoring Democracy in the Workplace Act, legislation which would repeal the rule promulgated by the National Mediation Board.

These developments serve as an opportunity for the Obama Administration to demonstrate whether their words have legitimacy. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed just a few weeks ago, President Obama wrote, “Sometimes, those rules have gotten out of balance, placing unreasonable burdens on business – burdens that have stifled innovation and have had a chilling effect on growth and jobs.”

He reiterates the point in his State of the Union Address saying, “To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.”

Mr. Obama now has his chance to act. He can stand with workers and businesses, and reject the forced unionization of airline and railroad workers, which will certainly have a “chilling effect on growth and jobs.” Furthermore, in advocating for legislation reversing the NMB’s actions, the President would be standing with his predecessors from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Administration to the present.

The actions of the National Mediation Board place an “unnecessary burden on businesses” and the President should stand with the Congress and “fix them.”

Tell Congress: Stop the PRO Act

WFI is working to prevent passage of the so-called Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act)—a wholesale labor reform package that takes the current careful balance of labor rules and tips it greatly in the favor of labor bosses and forced collective bargaining.

The PRO Act robs workers of the right to a secret ballot to form a union, forces union contracts on workers without a vote of approval, and expose workers’ personal contact information to union bosses seeking to organize a workplace. And that’s just the start.

Help us speak out against this woefully misguided and blatantly anti-worker legislation. Review and send the message below to your members of Congress today.

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WFI Key Vote Letter: Opposition to PRO Act

— 02.10.2020 —
Dear Speaker Pelosi and Minority Leader McCarthy: On behalf of the Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI), I am writing to share our organization’s vehement opposition to H.R. 2474, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act). WFI has serious concerns with the broad, overreaching nature of this legislation and the many ways in which it would undermine worker freedom and privacy, while simultaneously threatening businesses and entire industries that keep America’s economy thriving. Please note that WFI will include votes on the PRO Act and its amendments on our Congressional Labor Scorecard, which scores and ranks legislators based on their activity associated with workplace issues. WFI was established to fight for American employees and employers as well as our entire economy. We believe in worker empowerment, the right of workers to be fully informed of the options available for worker-involvement in the workplace, and the right to freely choose whether to organize or not. No individual or group – government, a union or an employer – should be able to intimidate or restrict workers’ in exercising these rights. In an attempt to boost flailing union membership at the expense of workers’ rights, the PRO Act would upend decades of established U.S. labor law and institute myriad anti-employee and anti-employer policies that have already been soundly rejected—by Congress, various federal agencies, or the courts. Among its most blatant affronts to workers’ rights, the PRO Act would eliminate the right to a secret ballot when determining whether to unionize and enforce a “card check” system, exposing workers to the potential for harassment, intimidation, and coercion. The PRO Act would also enforce binding arbitration in union negotiations by a government- appointed bureaucrat; repeal and eliminate right-to-work laws in 27 states, force workers to fund union activities regardless of whether they support them; and threaten the ability of individuals to operate as independent contractors, eliminating traditional economic and employment opportunities and threatening the independence and flexibility of the emerging gig economy. On top of all that, the PRO Act would force all workers’ personal and home contact information to be provided to a union during organizing campaigns – in an electronic, searchable format no less, with no limit on what a union can do with that information. WFI believes in advancing sensible policies that protect and preserve the rights of both employees and employers, and we welcome the opportunity to work with legislators who also support these efforts. However, the PRO Act does not achieve these goals and would instead threaten the rights of both while jeopardizing our entire economy. WFI urges members of the House to strongly oppose the PRO Act. Sincerely, Heather Greenaway Executive Director Workforce Fairness Institute See the letter here.
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