New Privileges For Transportation Union Chiefs?



Principled U.S. House Leadership Can Thwart Big Labor Power Grab

(Source: September 2011 NRTWC Newsletter)

Over the next few weeks, the U.S. House will have the opportunity to turn back a Big Labor-inspired bureaucratic rewrite of the procedures through which union officials acquire monopoly-bargaining privileges under the Railway Labor Act (RLA).

If self-avowedly pro-Right to Work House leaders and rank-and-file members blow this opportunity, another one won’t come for a long time.

In June 2010, President Obama’s two appointees on the three-member National Mediation Board (NMB) instituted an RLA rule change making it far easier for airline and railroad union chiefs to acquire monopoly power to negotiate employees’ pay, benefits, and work rules.

NMB members Harry Hoglander and Linda Puchala, the two Obama-selected bureaucrats favoring the rule change, are both ex-union bosses. They overturned decades-old procedures previously supported by GOP and Democratic presidential administrations alike.

Union Monopoly Bargaining Hurts Employees and Businesses

Federally-imposed “exclusive” (monopoly) union bargaining undermines efficiency and productivity by forcing employers to reward equally their most productive and least productive employees.

The damage is compounded when the employees already hurt by being forced to accept a union bargaining agent opposed to their interests are then forced to pay dues or fees to the unwanted union.

Fortunately, Right to Work laws in 22 states, where 39% of the private-sector workforce is employed, prohibit the collection of forced dues from the vast majority of employees wherever they are in effect.

However, in 1951, when Congress amended the RLA to impose for the first time forced union dues and fees on airline and railroad employees, Big Labor U.S. senators and representatives denied states the option to protect employees’ Right to Work.

Ever since, union bosses have had the government-granted power to get airline and railroad employees fired for refusal to bankroll a union in all 50 states, including Right to Work states.

Partly in order to compensate for the unique privileges airline/railroad union officials enjoy, even relative to other union officials, federal labor policy has long set a somewhat higher bar for RLA-covered union bosses to acquire forced-union-dues powers.

Until last year, airline and railroad union kingpins needed the backing of the majority of all of a firm’s employees in a “craft or class,” not merely the majority of those who vote, to be installed as employees’ monopoly-bargaining agent.

The Hoglander-Puchala bureaucratic rewrite of longstanding RLA procedures enables union chiefs to get monopoly power as long as a majority of the employees who vote back them.

House Showdown With Big Labor-Controlled White House And Senate Now Underway

In March, International Association of Machinists (IAM/AFL-CIO) union bosses took advantage of this rule to grab monopoly control over more than 1900 AirTran employees, even though 66% had not voted for unionization.

Fortunately, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2011 (H.R.658), adopted by the House the following month, would overturn the Hoglander-Puchala scheme and restore the higher bar for union monopoly bargaining.

Before final passage of H.R.658, intense lobbying by National Right to Work Committee members persuaded a 220-206 House majority to defeat an amendment backed by Big Labor Democrats and Big Labor-appeasing Republicans endorsing Mr. Hoglander and Ms. Puchala’s power grab.

This House vote set the stage for a now unfolding House showdown with the Obama Administration and union-label Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) Senate over RLA union monopoly bargaining.

Right to Work Vice President Urges Members to Keep Contacting Speaker Boehner

“President Obama and Majority Leader Reid claim they won’t go along with any FAA reauthorization that prohibits the NMB from greasing the skids for union monopoly bargaining over transportation employees,” noted Committee Vice President Mary King.

“But if the House over the next month or two simply refuses to authorize FAA funding for Fiscal 2012, which begins October 1, and beyond, without an amendment restoring the RLA rules that prevailed until 2010, then it’s very likely the President and Mr. Reid will have to change their tune.

“Big Labor Democrats know the American public doesn’t want to see the FAA shut down for an extended period, as it already was briefly this summer, just so airline and railroad union bosses can grab even more monopoly power than they already have.

“I urge Committee members to keep contacting House Speaker John Boehner [R-Ohio] at 202-225-0600 to make sure he knows that, too.”