‘People Have a Right to Make Their Own Choice’

Avelo employee Kim Howard
Avelo employee Kim Howard believes all the firm’s flight attendants should get to vote on continued AFA rule. Credit: WTNH-TV (ABC, New Haven, Conn.)

How Eight Pro-Union Votes Put 244 Workers Under a Union Monopoly

One of the key flaws of America’s federal labor statutes is that they routinely require employers to treat employees as a mass, rather than as individuals. Labor law’s bias in favor of union monopolies is highly problematic even when a majority of employees in the collective actually want a union, because the legitimate interests of subgroups of employees (e.g., low-seniority, part-time, highly skilled) may get shortchanged.

But the fact is that biased workplace statutes such as the federal Railway Labor Act (RLA) often empower Big Labor bosses to seize and maintain for years monopoly-bargaining privileges when it was only a small minority of employees who ever wanted a union in the first place.

For Seven Decades, RLA Bureaucrats Actually Barred ‘Decertification’ Elections

Houston-based discount carrier Avelo Airlines is a case in point. As Sean Higgins of the Competitive Enterprise Institute explained in a recent commentary, when Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) union bosses first gained control over Avelo’s flight attendants in 2022, just 12 out of the 55 then employed by the firm got to vote, but all 55 Avelo attendants were corralled into the AFA.

Only eight actually voted to hand AFA officials monopoly power to codetermine with the company how employees are compensated and managed. 

Two years later, the number of Avelo flight attendants has risen to 244, and all of them are still prohibited, as a consequence of those eight votes, from dealing directly with the company regarding their workplace concerns.

Airline and railroad employees who are subject to the RLA are almost completely unprotected from forced unionism. Their freedom not to associate with an unwanted union is even more limited than it is for other private-sector workers who are subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Once a union contract is in place, every Avelo flight attendant could be forced to pay dues to the AFA, because the RLA, unlike the NLRA, overrides all state Right to Work protections.

And for nearly 70 years, from 1951 until 2019, National Mediation Board(NMB) bureaucrats who were charged with implementing the RLA even prohibited “decertification” elections through which employees could oust an unwanted union by voting for “no union.”

Flight Attendant: We ‘Do Not Believe the AFA Has Majority Support’

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Greg Mourad commented: 

“Fortunately, in 2019, the Trump Administration, after receiving invaluable input from the Committee’s sister organization, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, finally created a straightforward process for union decertifications under the RLA.

“And because this rule change remains in effect more than three years into Big Labor President Joe Biden’s term, independent-minded Avelo flight attendants have a fighting chance to oust the AFA. But the anti-worker RLA will still make it an uphill battle.”

As Mr. Higgins noted, Avelo illustrates how “a union as a legal entity can exist separately from the workers it purportedly represents and it doesn’t necessarily reflect their wishes either.”In a rapidly expanding business like Avelo, which may soon go international, it probably isn’t even possible to forge union contract provisions regarding matters like working shifts that will remain viable for the life of the contract, as pro-decertification flight attendant Kim Howard told Mr. Higgins.

Even with the RLA and its implementing regulations stacked in AFA union bosses’ favor, Ms. Howard thinks decertification proponents have a good chance to win:

“We have over 200 flight attendants today and do not believe the AFA has majority support.”

“Despite the fact that Big Labor bosses routinely style themselves as champions of ‘majority rule,’ they routinely attempt to block decertifications by preventing a vote from ever happening, and they very often succeed,” said Mr. Mourad.

“But they prefer to do so without publicity, because they know such machinations are impossible to defend. 

“As Ms. Howard told Mr. Higgins, ‘People have a right to make their own choice. Now it’s not just eight people making the choice. It is all of us making the choice.’

“Of course, under U.S. labor law generally and especially under the RLA, workers only rarely get to vote on whether a monopolistic union stays in power. But here’s hoping Ms. Howard is right with regard to Avelo flight attendants.”

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