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National Mediation Board Union Decertification Proposal is A Problem In Search of A Solution

By Larry I. Willis

In an era when the economy is out of balance and stagnating wages are making it harder for working people to get by, our government should be pursuing policies that enhance the rights of workers and encourage them to join together in union. Sadly, a proposal by the National Mediation Board (NMB) does the opposite.

In February, the NMB issued a proposed rule aimed at changing the way workers in the aviation and rail sectors remove their union representation. Those on the Board in favor of the proposal say they want to ensure “freedom of association among employees.” But transportation labor isn’t afraid to call this proposal what it really is: union busting at the federal level.

Here’s what you need to know:

This proposal is unnecessary. Procedures in place today that allow workers in the aviation and rail sectors to remove or change their union representatives work. We know this because aviation and rail employees use them regularly. By way of example, just last year pilots at Flight Options/Flexjet voted to become non-union in an election involving 551 employees. Since 1998, there have been at least 42 occasions where workers have filed applications with the Board designed to remove a union, and 55 times applications have been filed to change unions.

Employer groups and right-to-work organizations have repeatedly asked the Board to adopt different decertification rules. The NMB has consistently rejected those efforts, including as recently as 2010. The Board explained then that the current procedures are consistent with the RLA and sufficient to ensure employee choice in representation matters.

This proposal hurts working people. Under the NMB’s proposal, once workers vote decertify their current union representative, they would be forced to wait two years before they could choose to seek union representation again. During that two-year period, workers who voted to remove their union representative would lose any existing contract protections.

We are also concerned that under the proposed rule non-employees would be able to seek a decertification vote – an allowance that runs counter to the law and would invite outside forces not covered by the contract to interfere in labor-management issues.

It is clear the proposal by the NMB is nothing more than a problem in search of a solution. Denying working people the most effective tool they have to improve their quality of life and make their jobs better for two years is wildly unacceptable. Transportation labor is committed to standing up for the rights of workers in the rail and aviation sectors, and will make sure the NMB knows why working people are opposed to this by filing comments on this issue and making our case at a public hearing later this month.

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