Katie Gage

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.


Katie Gage

Katie Gage is the executive director of the Workforce Fairness institute.