Fox, Limbaugh Campaign Against Majority Rule In Secret-Ballot Union Elections

Rush Limbaugh and Fox News contributor Dana Perino have claimed that the FAA shutdown was caused by a dispute over the Democrats' “backdoor way to help the unions with the card check bill.” In reality, the dispute involves corporate and Republican opposition to a decision by the National Mediation Board to change the way it conducts unionization elections to a method that allows workers to unionize if a union wins a majority of the ballots cast.

Perino And Limbaugh: “What The FAA Shutdown Is About Is Card Check.”

Perino: Dispute Was Over Democrats' “Backdoor Way To Help The Unions With The Card Check Bill.” From the August 5 edition of Fox News' The Five:

PERINO: Well, let's remember, also, why this happened.


PERINO: And that is because it was a -- the Democrats were trying a backdoor way to help the unions with the card check bill, and the Republicans cried foul. They actually read the bill and said no.

TANTAROS: Imagine that. They're reading the bill.

GUILFOYLE: Imagine reading.

TANTAROS: And this should not come as a surprise. I pulled up Obama's agenda from 2008. If you look at what's happening -- what happened with the FAA, everything that he promised he would do with regard to unions, with regard to organizing, with regard to card check, it's all right here in his formal agenda. He's doing it all. So he's just -- we shouldn't be shocked.

GUILFOYLE: He's a man of his word.

TANTAROS: He's not actually a disappoint-mint all the time.

BOB BECKEL: First of all, labor has been on Obama since the beginning for not bringing card check up and having Congress bring it up. It is not being back-doored in on some F.A.A. bill. I mean, there's not a card check -- there should be. There should be a card check.

TANTAROS: Well they certainly tried. [Fox News, The Five, 8/5/11]

Limbaugh: “The Democrats Want The Ability For Workers To Unionize In A Public Ballot.” From the August 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

If you read deep enough into this story (you know I did) you find this, and here's what it's really all about. “But the most politically difficult issue involves a labor provision in the House long-term bill. Republicans want to overturn a national mediation board rule approved last year that allows airline and railroad employees to form a union by a simple majority of those voting. Under the old rule, workers who didn't vote were treated as 'no' votes.” They want to change it so that somebody who doesn't vote just doesn't count: A simple majority of those voting.

So basically what the FAA shutdown is about is card check. The Democrats want the ability for workers to unionize in a public ballot. It allows these professional thugs to do away with the secret ballot in order to intimidate employees in joining a union. They want a public vote to put pressure on people to vote for the union, 'cause if you vote “no,” publicly, you're making yourself a target (you and your kneecaps). So that's what this FAA thing is all about. It's all about trying to unionize more railroad and airline employees. It's not about the subsidized airline routes. [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 8/4/11, via]

In Fact, Republicans Wanted Congress To Overturn Rule Authorizing Majority-Rule Elections

NY Times: GOP Blocked FAA Reauthorization Because Of Disagreement With New Rule To Allow Airlines “To Unionize With A Straight Majority Vote.” Airlines and railroads are covered by a different law than the National Labor Relations Act, which governs most industries. They are governed by the Railway Labor Act, and its elections rules are promulgated by the National Mediation Board (NMB). From an August 3 article in The New York Times describing the controversy over a new NMB rule governing elections:

Here is what has happened since the Federal Aviation Administration lost its authorization on July 23, courtesy of House Republicans. The agency has not collected more than $300 million in taxes (money the airlines have mostly pocketed). It has had to furlough some 4,000 workers and halt construction projects worth $11 billion in 241 airports, putting 70,000 more people out of work.


And why is this happening? Republicans, who are experts at such maneuvers, have been holding the reauthorization of the F.A.A. hostage for months, trying to get Democrats in the Senate to agree to weaken transportation workers' rights.

The tale, like so much in Washington, is a convoluted one, but it comes down to this: Last year, the National Mediation Board changed a rule to make it easier for airline and railroad workers to unionize with a straight majority vote. At the behest of the airlines, House Republicans inserted a provision in the F.A.A. reauthorization bill to undo the rule change. The Senate's version kept the rule. [The New York Times, 8/3/11]

Old Rules For Airline Secret Ballot Elections Treated Any Worker Who Didn't Vote “As A Vote Against Representation.” Before the new rule went into effect, ballots in secret ballot elections conducted by the NMB did not provide workers with a choice not to vote for representation, but rather listed only a choice between different possible unions. A worker who abstained from voting was therefore treated as voting for no representation. From an AFL-CIO document supporting a rule change:

The NMB's current representation election procedure allows employees to select a collective bargaining representative by voting for one of the individuals or organizations appearing on the ballot or writing-in the name of another individual or organization. See 29 CFR §§ 1206.2 & 1206.5 (describing the showing of interest required for an individual or organization to appear on the ballot). If a majority of eligible voters cast valid ballots, the organization or individual receiving a majority of the votes is certified as the representative of the voting craft or class. NMB Representation Manual §§ 13.304-1 & 14.305-2. If no individual or organization receives a majority of the votes cast in a “valid” election - i.e., an election in which a majority of the potential voters cast valid ballots - a run-off election is held between the two individuals or organizations receiving the most votes, without any opportunity to write-in a third choice. 29 CFR § 1206.1.

“Under the existing election procedure, there is no opportunity for an employee to vote 'no' or cast a ballot against representation.” 74 Fed. Reg. at 56752. Rather than providing a place on the ballot for voting against representation, "[a]bstaining from voting, for whatever reason, is counted by the Board as a vote against representation." Ibid. Thus, “the failure or refusal of an eligible voter to participate in an NMB-conducted election is the functional equivalent of a 'no-union' vote.” Ibid. [National Mediation Board, 1/14/10]

New Rule Requires That Decision On Whether To Unionize Is Made By Majority Of Votes Cast. From a National Mediation Board press release:

Effective today, the Board's voting procedures for representation elections will change to add a “No” option and to provide that the majority of votes-cast will determine the outcome of an election.

The new procedure will only apply to applications received on or after July 1, 2010. Relevant references on the NMB website will be updated to reflect the changes in the near future. [National Mediation Board, 7/1/10]

New Rule Did Not Change Other Election Procedures. From the NMB's announcement of the new election rules in the Federal Register:

As has been previously discussed, the proposed change affects only one part of the Board's election procedure: The method used by the NMB to determine the outcome of a self-organization vote by employees after an application has been filed and an election has been authorized. [Federal Register, 5/10/10]

Under New Rules, NMB Still Says Unionization Cannot Occur Without An Election Unless Both The Employer And Union Agree. From the NMB's list of frequently asked questions about representation:

Q: Can a union be certified by the NMB without an election?

A: Yes. If there is only one labor organization applying for representation, and the organization and the carrier agree in writing to a certification based on a check of authorization cards, the NMB can authorize the check of authorizations instead of an election. If a majority of the craft or class has signed authorizations, the organization will be certified without an election. [National Mediation Board, accessed 8/5/11]

Delta Airlines Moved To Overturn Majority Rule Regulation

Delta Flew Anti-Union Workers To D.C. Lobby For Majority Rule Regulations To Be Overturned As Price For Allowing FAA To Operate. From Talking Points Memo:

House Republicans want to re-establish old rules which say that when aviation or rail workers don't vote in unionization elections, they're treated as having voted against unionization. And now on of the nation's largest airlines is getting involved in the fight.

The push is reflected in language in the House's FAA re-authorization bill. In an earlier stage of the legislative fight, Democrats, joined by a few Republicans, nearly succeeded in getting the provision stripped. Now, sources say, a similar fight is likely to play out on the House floor, and anti-union employees at Delta Airlines are preparing to fly to Washington to join the fight.

In a message to its members obtained by TPM, the group “No Way AFA” -- a coalition of Delta employees who want to deliberalize union rights -- frames the fight this way. (AFA is the Association of Flight Attendants, the flight attendants union.)

“Title IX of the House FAA Reauthorization bill repeals the National Mediation Board's 2010 elections rule change, which permits a minority of employees at airlines and railroads to determine whether or not the majority will be represented by unions,” the message reads. "[I]t is anticipated that an amendment will be offered on the House floor to strike these provisions from the bill and allow the NMB's modified rule to stay in place."

According to the note, “Delta strongly supports the bill” as currently written.

Members are encouraged to participate in a fly-in to Washington, D.C., to lobby their congressmen, for which “positive space travel” -- free travel for airline employees -- is permitted.

A Delta spokesperson said No Way AFA operates separately from the company itself, but that the company “allow[s] employees to travel positive space to D.C. when supporting legislative efforts that the company supports.” [Talking Points Memo, 3/25/11]