Feds Change Union Rules

A federal agency on May 10 changed rules regulating union elections, making it easier for airline and railroad employees to unionize.

Critics of the new rule argue the National Mediation Board does not have the authority to make such a change, and one airline organization has indicated it will sue over the change.

Under the new rules, a union could form if a majority of employees who cast ballots in a union election vote to unionize. Previously, a majority of all employees needed to vote for unionization; employees who did not vote were essentially counted as a “no” vote.

“The National Mediation Board simply does not have the legal authority to make such a radical change without Congressional authorization,” U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said in a news release. “With this rule change, a union could be permanently recognized without a majority of employees having ever supported representation. I will use all available tools at my disposal, including the Congressional Review Act option, to see that this assault on employee rights does not stand.”

Meanwhile, the Air Transport Association of America (ATA) said it is planning to file a challenge to the rule change.

“We continue to believe the National Mediation Board does not have legal authority to implement this rule, one that undoubtedly will lead to more labor discord,” the ATA said in a statement. “It is quite clear to us that the NMB was determined to proceed despite the proposed rule’s substantive and procedural flaws, leaving us no choice but to seek judicial review.”

The AFL-CIO requested the change in September 2009, Isakson said.

— Todd DeFeo