Obama Appointee Makes Difference in Vote For New Labor Rule Which Drastically Favors Airline Unions

It only took a year for Obama appointee to the National Mediation Board (NMB), Linda A. Puchala to make a difference.  Today the NMB decided to change a 76-year-old rule on union elections making it much easier for airlines and railroads to become unionized and not surprisingly Ms Puchala, the former head of the Flight Attendants Union Cast the deciding vote.

Under the old rules, a vote to become unionized need the majority of  all employees had to vote yes. For example, if  the workforce was a total of 100,000, you needed 50,000 yes votes no matter how many total people did not participate in the vote.  Under the new system, using the same numbers if only 60,000 of the 100,000 workforce votes, the union forces would only need 30,001 of the workforce (or a little more than 30%) to approve a union.
This change will lead to more labor disputes and higher ticket prices for the Airlines, an industry already in financial peril. Observingly the unions are celebrating

“We applaud the NMB for taking this historic and courageous step to bring democracy to union elections,” said Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

CWA sees the ruling to lure new members with the hopes of restoring its ailing pension plan which, according to the Sept. 09 Moody’s reported is underfunded to the point of being endangered (only 66.8% funded).

But the Air Transport Association, which represents most major airlines, is expected to file a lawsuit challenging the new rule.

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 industry group said in a statement.

…The final rule was approved 2-1, with chairwoman Elizabeth Dougherty issuing a fierce dissent. Dougherty, appointed by President George W. Bush, said the change is “an unprecedented departure for the NMB and represents the most dramatic policy shift in the history of the agency.”

Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin said Delta would support an industry lawsuit challenging the rule change.

“While disappointed, we are not surprised by the majority members’ decision in view of the way this rule change has been handled,” Laughlin said.

Republican legislators have promised to fight the change

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said Monday he wants to stop a federal rule change by the Obama administration that could make it easier for railway and airline employees to form unions..

Isakson said the board had no authority to make the change, which he described as an assault on employee rights.

“The National Mediation Board simply does not have the legal authority to make such a radical change without congressional authorization,” Isakson said in a statement. “With this rule change, a union could be permanently recognized without a majority of employees having ever supported representation.”

Isakson said he would look into using the Congressional Review Act to overturn the decision. The act allows lawmakers to oversee and overturn regulations issued by any executive branch agency.

The law is rarely used, and to overturn a rule requires a resolution of disapproval approved by both the Congress and the president in the few months after the rule is issued. The resolution cannot be filibustered in the Senate.

It is highly unlikely that the President who has made many decisions favoring unions over the rights of the American people will side with the Republicans on this issue.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), the ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee, also slammed the rule change, saying the board “imposed a quick fix at the behest of organized labor.”

More Labor unrest, Higher ticket prices, and more flight delays, that’s change you better believe in, because its coming soon.

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