75 Years Of Policy Turned on its Head

At the prodding of Big Labor,  The National Mediation Board, which regulates the rail and air industry, is preparing to overturn 75 years of labor policy.

From Wall Street Journal:

The board plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. Under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Not even close. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized.

This radical break with precedent is the handiwork of President Obama’s appointees to the three-member board: Harry Hoglander, once president of a pilots union, and Linda Puchala, former president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

The board got a request to adopt the jerry-rigged voting standard from the AFL-CIO in September. Without a hearing or invitation for preliminary views, the Obama duo drafted the AFL-CIO demand and published it in the Federal Register. It’s now subject to a 60-day comment period, after which Ms. Puchala and Mr. Hoglander will no doubt vote to inflict it on all the nation’s airline and rail carriers.

Since 1934, every National Mediation Board—even those with Democratic majorities—has upheld the current rule on grounds that companies governed by the Railway Labor Act are vital to the U.S. economy. The existing rules were designed to reduce strikes by ensuring that a majority of airline and rail employees support union representation. In their rule change, Mr. Hoglander and Ms. Puchala brush aside the many historical and legal barriers to their change, arguing that under “broad statutory authority” they can do what they want.

And that’s kind compared to their treatment of the board’s Bush-appointed Chairman Liz Dougherty. According to a letter Ms. Dougherty sent Congress, the two Democrats never sought her input or participation in crafting the proposal. Instead, they gave her a “final” version of the rule, said they were sending it in two hours and forbade her from publishing a dissent. They relented later, but only if she removed some of her criticism.

Ms. Dougherty noted such “arbitrary” and “exclusionary” behavior (we’d call it thuggish) has never been the norm at the agency. Her Democratic colleagues’ frantic rush to change a 75-year-old rule “gives the impression that the Board has prejudged this issue,” and is trying to “influence the outcome of several very large and important representation cases currently pending.”

Indeed. The AFL-CIO letter was inspired by Delta’s acquisition of Northwest. Northwest was largely unionized but Delta wasn’t. The unions are now struggling to win the required new elections, and they want the Mediation Board to manipulate the rules in their favor. It is growing clear that Ms. Puchala and Mr. Hoglander are in on the game. So too, presumably, are the folks who appointed them.