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President Obama may be a little late but he is finally standing up for union rights. He pledged to veto the big FAA authorization bill if its final version contains an anti-union provision that would make it harder for aviation and rail workers to organize.
That measure “would undermine a fundamental principle of fairness in union representation elections – that outcomes should be determined by a majority of the valid ballots cast,” according to a statement of administration policy the White House released on March 30. “By treating non-votes as ‘no’ votes, the provision would prohibit workers in the airline and railroad industries from voting whether to join a union on the same basis – majority rule – as most other industries.”
The White House statement also mentions the dreaded V word. “If the President is presented with a bill that would not safeguard the ability of railroad and airline workers to decide whether or not they would be represented by a union based upon a majority of the ballots cast in an election or that would degrade safe and efficient air traffic, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.”
The House version of the legislation contains the anti-union amendment, sponsored by House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), while the Senate’s version does not. Several House Republicans have announced that they would support stripping the provision from their bill, which would reauthorize FAA programs. But House leadership, in concert with Delta Airlines and other anti-union advocates, have been pressing their members to toe party line and leave the language in place.
Mica’s office has stressed, repeatedly, that he wants nothing more than to reestablish longstanding policy. While opponents have characterized the bill as “making it more difficult for airline and rail workers to unionize,” the Congressman’s spokesman on the transportation committee, Justin Harclerode, disputed that notion. “The language restores the 75-years of precedence for the election and unionization process under the Railway Labor Act, the labor law that applies to those industries,” Harclerode emailed. “During those 75 years, the NMB repeatedly refused to make these rule changes, which are the purview of the Congress. In 2009, two members of the NMB changed course and did change the process.”