Labor Unions: Stealth Unionization

November 19, 2009

Stealth Unionization

IBD: 19 Nov. 2009

Labor: While the focus was on card-check legislation that would allow workers to be bullied into union membership, a federal board has quietly changed a rule to let unions organize without a majority of workers.

The National Mediation Board, an agency charged with resolving labor disputes in the rail and airline industries, has approved a rule shift that heavily favors unions.

Under the change, OK’d by a 2-to-1 vote early this month, a union will be certified if a majority of those voting cast “yes” votes. Under the previous 75-year-old rule, certification required a majority of eligible workers, not just those voting. It’s conceivable that a company, or group of workers in a company, could be organized even if much less than a majority is in favor of unionization.

Take Delta Air Lines, which is facing union votes among its flight attendants and ground workers after absorbing Northwest Airlines to become the world’s largest carrier. It could be forced to deal with a union of 20,500 flight attendants with more than half not wanting to be members.

Unlike other major carriers, Delta has remained virtually free of the burden of a unionized work force. Only its pilots are organized, and it seems Delta employees continue to be proud of their independence. Just last year, before the addition of 6,500 Northwest flight attendants, a union attempt failed when fewer than 40% of Delta’s 14,000 flight attendants voted to organize.

The new rule, now subject to a 60-day comment period, was proposed by a union — the AFL-CIO — and it reeks of politics. The two mediation board members who voted for it were Democratic appointees. One, Linda Puchala, a former flight attendant union leader, was appointed by President Barack Obama. The other, Harry Hoglander, is a former airline pilot and official in a pilots union.

Seems these two, taking their cue from the same Democrats intent on forcing health care reform on an unwilling public, rammed through the change. Mediation Board Chairman Elizabeth Dougherty, a former Bush aide who voted to keep the rule in place, told nine senators in a letter:

“The proposal was completed without my input or participation, and I was excluded from any discussions regarding the timing of the proposed rule.”

While her colleagues were fronting for organized labor, Dougherty thoughtfully questioned the board’s authority to implement the change. Her argument, one we find compelling, is that the power to alter the rule rests in Congress.

If the rule becomes permanent after the 60-day comment period, the potential for workers who don’t want union representation to be forced under the control of organized labor increases greatly.

The Delta employees, and any others, who have been fighting off unions for years might find themselves subject to a master they didn’t ask for.


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