Get Updates

TTD President Larry I. Willis to the NMB: Your Proposal to Deny Aviation and Rail Workers a Union Voice is Ill-Timed and Tone Deaf

By Admin

TTD President Larry Willis testified before the National Mediation Board (NMB) yesterday on a proposed rule specifically designed to make it easier to decertify unions in the rail and aviation sectors and to bar workers from even being able to vote for union representation for two years after decertification.  Willis told the NMB – and specifically, the two Board members supporting this proposal – that this rule is unnecessary, limits the rights of working people to seek union representation, and undermines stability in labor-management relations.

Transportation labor is not alone in this position. Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio, Rail Subcommittee Chairman Dan Lipinski, and Aviation Chairman Rick Larsen sent a letter to the NMB expressing their opposition to this rulemaking and specifically noted that it would limit the rights of working people to choose union representation after a decertification vote. Senator Patty Murray, the Ranking Democrat on the HELP Committee, also sent a letter urging the Board to reverse course.

TTD will be filing more comprehensive comments next week, which will further outline why the Board has exceeded its authority and should re-think this approach.

Read excerpts from Larry’s testimony below:

The proposed rule needlessly undermines the rights of aviation and rail workers, and does so at a time when working people are turning to collective action at a level not seen in years. Stagnating wages, the skyrocketing cost of health care, advances in technology, and a lack of jobs that pay livable wages have all contributed to an economy that is tilted against working families.

Given this reality, it makes no sense to adopt policies that would limit the rights of working people to form and join unions. Yet that is precisely what two members of this Board have proposed. 

More often than not, a job in the aviation or rail industry is a job someone can raise a family on, buy a house on, send their kids to college on, and save for retirement on. This isn’t by accident. It is because of high union density and strong collective bargaining agreements in these sectors.

We know that those with a union contract earn, on average, $204 more per week, have safer work environments, and are more likely to have employer-paid health care than their non-union counterparts.

A rule that makes it easier to remove union representation from people who already enjoy the protections of a collective bargaining agreement is ill-timed and tone deaf to the needs of workers in these sectors.

To the degree that unions are not removed from rail and aviation properties at a rate sufficient to satisfy right-to-work organizations, let me offer an alternative perspective: Working Americans want a union voice. In fact, the majority of working people not only understand the benefits of collective bargaining, but see a strong union contract as the most effective tool they have to make life better for themselves and their families.

Independent polling tells us that regardless of gender, age, geographic location, or education levels, 62 percent of Americans say they support unions, and interest among Americans in joining a union is at a four-decade high. These concepts may be difficult for some to fathom, but I would suggest a desire for fair treatment, fair pay, safety at work and the freedom to care for one’s family is what drives the union support we see from frontline rail and aviation employees.

Yet here we sit debating a proposal designed to remove labor unions from the equations.   

The Board should reject this proposal and instead focus its time and energy on policies that will support the rights of working families and improve labor-management relations.