A year ago, a board of three unelected bureaucrats reversed 75 years of precedent when it decided airlines and railroads can unionize with the support of just a majority of voting workers rather than a majority of all workers.
Today, the House of Representatives takes up a bill that would reverse that decision and restore precedent — but it faces internal opposition and the threat of a presidential veto.
The Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill includes a provision, Title IX, that would annul the National Mediation Board’s 2010 Minority Rule decision and ensure that airlines and railroads unionize only with the support of a majority of their entire workforces. No longer would unions be able to organize airlines with the support of just 34 percent of the workforce, as AirTran did recently.
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) was the author of Title IX. Speaking on a conference call with bloggers yesterday, Gingrey said he is hopeful the FAA reauthorization bill will pass with his provision intact — but he also acknowledged Title IX faces substantial opposition.
“That section is a very important part of the bill,” Gingrey said. “We feel very strongly that it’s going to stay in the bill, but there certainly is a movement afoot by some members to try to strike that section of the FAA reauthorization and revert back to this National Mediation Board decision of last May.” Gingrey called the decision an “end-around card check.”
Chief among those who oppose Title IX are Reps. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) and Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), who have offered an amendment that would eliminate the Gingrey provision and uphold the National Mediation Board decision. These critics contend it’s unfair to count non-votes in a union election as “no” votes.
But union elections differ in important ways from typical elections — and, once a union is formed, all workers are bound to join. Airline unionization is even more unique because no process to decertify an airline union exists. Furthermore, Right to Work laws do not apply in the airline industry. The sheer finality of the decision to unionize underscores the importance of a majority of workforce support.
Gingrey is prepared to tackle the LaTourette-Costello Amendment, however.
“We’re fighting really hard, talking to individual members and we hope that, when that amendment that is going to be offered to strike this section that’s so important in regard to this situation, that it will be defeated,” Gingrey said.
President Obama has also promised to veto the bill if it passes with Title IX unamended.
“If the president is presented with a bill that would not safeguard the ability of railroad and airline workers to decide whether or not they would be represented by a union based upon a majority of the ballots cast in an election … his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill,” the White House said in a statement.
It’s only natural the president would support the decision of the members of the National Mediation Board — after all, he appointed them. But the decision to overturn established policy should not be taken lightly — especially when the action occurs in the executive branch, rather than the legislative. To threaten to veto the FAA reauthorization bill only further reinforces the impression that, in this instance, Obama plans to elevate the union agenda above an appropriately legislative decision.
Undaunted, Gingrey’s goal is to elicit enough support to make all opposition irrelevant.
“We want to win, we want to win big, we want to win in a bipartisan way,” he said. “That gives a House bill a tremendous amount of momentum.”