Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Further evidence that labor holds significant sway over U.S. air transportation policy surfaced yesterday as the National Mediation Board announced that it is contemplating revising its longstanding rule under the Railway Labor Act which counts abstentions from airline and railway unionization elections as "no" votes. See Representation Election Procedure, 74 Fed. Reg. 56,750 (Nov. 3, 2009). Since 1934, unionization under the Act requires a true majority of a company's workers to vote "yes" rather than a mere majority of those who turn out for the election. If the NMB goes forward with its proposal, however, the far more labor-friendly requirement based on actual election turnout will control.
For further information on the proposal, along with stiff criticism from both the airlines and lawmakers, see Terry Maxon, ATA, Two Lawmakers Oppose Change in Union Rep Elections, Airline Biz Blog (Nov. 3, 2009) (available here); Mike Esterl & Melanie Trottman, New Rule to Benefit Rail, Plane Unions, Wall St. J., Nov. 3, 2009 (available here). For more on the Act itself, see Katerine Van Wezel Stone, Labor Relations on the Airlines: The Railway Labor Act in the Era of Deregulation, 42 Stanford L. Rev. 1485 (1990); Malcolm A. MacIntyre, The Railway Labor Act--A Misfit for the Airlines, 19 J. Air L. & Com. 274 (1952).