Katie Gage

The National Mediation Board (NMB) has become Big Labor’s latest tool for regulating and forcing workers into unions. Like most administrative agencies, the NMB has little accountability and American voters have little influence on their decisions as they often operate in the background and answer to no one. Fortunately, Congress now has the opportunity to take control and reverse a dangerous, job-killing decision that forces workers into unions with no decertification process.

Last year, the NMB radically upended a workplace rule, backed by nearly a century of precedent, changing the way airline and railroad workers unionize. Before the change, a simple majority of a company’s workforce needed to vote for unionization in order to form a collective bargaining unit. Now, the majority of votes received, instead of the majority of the workforce, will unionize an entire airline or railroad company. This rule change flies in the face of labor policy upheld by Republicans and Democrats alike since Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president.

If you were to apply this to a hypothetical company of 100 employees, you would assume that 51 workers would need to vote to form a collective bargaining unit. Under the new rule, if only half of the employees voted, meaning just 26 people, a union would be formed and 74 workers would become dues-paying members, whether they support the decision or not. If this business unionizes, however, there is virtually no way to decertify the union, meaning once they force you into the union – with or without your vote – you can never get out.

Thankfully, Congress is moving to combat this unbelievable injustice. Two weeks ago, the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up and passed the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011. In this bill, Committee Chairman John L. Mica introduced language which would repeal the NMB’s ruling and restore the time-honored principle of majority vote in airline and railroad elections. This is the fastest way to return common sense and legitimacy to union elections in these industries as the FAA Reauthorization bill is expected to be voted on in mid-March.

Representative Phil Gingrey has also introduced H.R. 548, or the Restoring Democracy in the Workplace Act, a bill that would repeal the National Mediation Board’s decision to force unionization on airline and railroad companies.

The NMB’s new voting system is designed to fulfill the same goal behind the Employee ‘Forced’ Choice Act (EFCA). Under EFCA, a card check system would make all votes to unionize public, opening the door to intimidation and coercion in workplace elections in order for Big Labor to gain more dues-paying members.

This leads to the question: is this really what a so-called non-partisan, independent, unbiased board of negotiators should be pushing on America?

The NMB was created in 1934 to settle labor disputes and keep America’s airlines and railroads moving. However, political agendas have a way of creeping into every crevice of government. The NMB now seems more concerned with pushing American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Richard Trumka’s agenda than keeping America on the move and employed.

Old fashioned ideas like fair elections are of little concern to agencies like the NMB. This administrative agency is made up of three people, all presidential appointees, two of whom were former union officials and one who was not even meaningfully consulted before the rule change.

Americans and our elected representatives have successfully kept EFCA at bay for two years. But rather than respect worker rights and voter preferences, union bosses have worked hard to place people in positions like the NMB in order to circumvent Congress and force workers into unions through regulations.

Passing the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 will overturn a politically-motivated decision made by a government agency run by unaccountable bureaucrats. Furthermore, it will defend the idea that workplace elections should be fair, open and honest. Lastly, it will let labor bosses know that Americans are not going to let them bully us into bailouts at the expense of hardworking men and women.


Katie Gage

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