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Airline Union-Buster Auditioning for President?

Quick quiz: Who was Nevada federal judge Roger Foley talking about when he ruled on “blatant, grievous, willful, deliberate and repeated violations of the Railway Labor Act?” Gov. Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital, of course.

This should come as no surprise to anyone following the GOP presidential nominee’s bid for the White House.  Fighting unions and trampling on workers’ rights is about the only issue Romney hasn’t flip-flopped on since he started running for president five years ago.  But this story hits close to home for our members who now know just how far Romney and his cronies will go to increase profits on the backs of workers.  He’ll even engage in lawless union-busting.

Here’s a quick rundown of Bain’s shady tactics at Key Airlines, which at one time was based in Salt Lake City before moving to Vegas, via the Financial Times:

“In the autumn of 1985, 21 pilots at Key planned to form their own union, citing safety concerns. Management said the campaign was actually motivated by low pay.

According to [a Nevada district court] ruling, Key held coercive meetings with pilots; said management would leave and the company lose contracts; and told pilots that salaries, bonuses and benefits could be frozen. Federal labor law forbids an airline to ‘interfere in any way with the organization of its employees.’

Two union organizers – Olen Rae Goodwin and Lawrence Schlang, a former naval aviator – were instructed to sign resignation letters, according to a separate report by the National Mediation Board, which oversees union elections in the sector. The report described the company’s excuse for this dismissal as ‘little more than pretext.’ When a union election was finally held only two pilots voted ‘yes.’”

When these events unfolded, Romney was Bain’s chief executive officer, and personally owned 5 percent of Key Airlines.  He stood to gain financially by treating his employees unfairly, and that’s exactly what Bain Capital did.

Consistent with Gov. Romney’s long legacy at Bain, two years later Bain sold Key Airlines for $18 million, just one of many transactions in which executives at the firm profited on the backs of their employees.

A final point about the Key Airlines case.  Romney’s airline violated labor law to such a degree that its conduct gave rise to a specially designated voting procedure that declares anyone not voting to be in favor of unionization.  To this day, it is called the Key Ballot.  Yes, Mitt Romney’s Key Airlines so badly tainted the laboratory conditions necessary for a fair union election that the company got its very own ballot procedure reserved for only the most lawless companies.  Perhaps we should call it the Romney Ballot.

Romney’s actions shouldn’t shock anyone.  His campaign has consistently vilified the middle class and working poor.  He has condemned the right to form and join unions.  He has even said that strengthening our labor laws is akin to attacking American workers.

After Romney dissed almost half of Americans in a private fundraiser, it is no wonder he promises to apply Bain-like public policy in the Oval Office: generating wealth on the backs of workers.

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