A collection of 18 transportation unions have demanded that Congress reject a compromise measure on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Authorization bill which they say will hurt unions.
Unions like the United Auto Workers, United Steelworkers, Teamsters, the International Association of Machinists, the Association of Flight Attendants (CWA) and more object to several hidden provisions in the authorization bill. Laura Clawson explains:
Under current procedures, employers don’t know which workers have signed cards saying they want a union. The “compromise” could enable airlines to find out exactly which workers had signed cards, allowing managers to precisely target union supporters for intimidation. Once upon a time (2006 to 2010, roughly), Republicans and corporations were deeply and sincerely worried about what would happen to workers if a law was passed saying that if more than 50 percent of workers signed cards asking for union representation got them a union; this meant the destruction of workers’ right to a “secret ballot,” Republicans argued. Now, they want to make the workers sign the cards and then show the cards to their bosses before the election, while giving the bosses ways to delay the election to buy time to intimidate as many workers as needed to prevent a union win.
But that’s not all. In cases where a larger non-union and a smaller union airline merge, the “compromise” would make it easy to decertify the union at the smaller airline right off the bat, without allowing a vote. It would also diminish the independence of the National Mediation Board, the federal agency that oversees air and rail unions, making it easier for Congress to tie up the board’s time and resources and, more, to intimidate it into making decisions tilted toward airlines.
The topline compromise, which raised the threshold of the workers who had to sign cards to trigger a union election from 35% to 50%, didn’t seem like a big deal. Unions wouldn’t be likely to move forward on an election if they didn’t have at least 50% support up front. But these poison pills were obviously what Republicans wanted to salvage what has been a damaging series of confrontations on the FAA authorization bill. They dropped their lead demand of forcing election results to count workers who did not vote in a union election as a No vote. But they picked up all these other nicks in the way union representation works.
This is going to be a tough genie to put back in the bottle. Harry Reid announced the compromise with much fanfare. Democrats either weren’t aware of these new provisions or didn’t care much about them. But they mean a lot to this coalition of 18 unions. In their statement, they call for passage of a clean FAA Authorization bill:
We remain strongly committed to passage of a clean FAA Reauthorization bill. An aviation safety and security bill is no place to impose unrelated and controversial labor provisions that will ultimately serve to harm both airline and railroad workers. The proposed Railway Labor Act changes would drastically rewrite a statute that was crafted by labor-management cooperation and has not been changed for over 75 years without the agreement of both employer and employee representatives. Airline and rail workers would suffer significant losses as contracts are jettisoned, collective bargaining rights are cut and legal hurdles will be placed in the way of gaining a voice at work…
Rewarding the House Republican Leadership’s desire to rewrite decades of long standing labor law in a flash by inserting an unrelated and controversial labor provision in a much needed aviation safety and security bill, without notice, hearing, or debate, sets an extremely dangerous precedent. We urge the Senate to delete the provisions of the bill that would amend the RLA and pass the clean FAA Reauthorization that all concerned recognize this country sorely needs and supports.
They add that the labor law changes did not receive proper deliberation in committees of Congress.
Greg Sargent gets a response from a Senate Democratic aide, saying that the deal was a compromise and nobody got everything they wanted. So the fix looks to be in, and labor is not happy.