- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2011

A move by some House Republicans to alter the way rail and airline workers organize could threaten a comprehensive aviation safety bill, continuing the GOP’s push back at collective bargaining rights.

The provision, included in a larger Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill that the House is expected to vote on Friday, is a major sticking point to long-awaited legislation designed to update the nation’s aging air traffic control system.

The GOP-crafted measure says that rail and aviation workers who don’t vote in an election to determine whether they want to join a union must be counted as a “no” vote — reversing a 2010 National Mediation Board (NMB) ruling that union election be based on a majority of the ballots cast.

The provision has incensed Democrats, organized labor and even some Republicans, who say it’s a blatant attempt to breakup rail and airline unions.

“For too long, the deck has been stacked against workers who simply want to exercise their basic right to decide whether or not to be represented by a union,” said William Samuel, government affairs director for the AFL-CIO labor federation.

The White House says it may veto the bill if it includes the anti-union provision.

An amendment sponsored by Republican Rep. Steven C. LaTourette of Ohio and Democratic Rep. Jerry F. Costello of Illinois would strip the anti-union language from the bill. A vote on the amendment is expected Friday.

But supporters of the provision to reinstate the NMB’s former elections rule say it’s needed to correct an unfair favor granted to organized labor, and would restore more than 70 years of precedent.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a longtime adversary of organized labor, has pushed the House to keep the anti-union provision intact.

“While the board has made it much easier to form a union, it has not addressed the double standard that makes it nearly impossible for employees to decertify an unwanted union,” said R. Bruce Josten, the chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, in a open letter to House members on Thursday.

Mr. Josten added that the regulatory process that led to the adoption of the revised NMB rule last year was “little more than a sham.”

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman John L. Mica, Florida Republican, said he is confident the LaTourette/Costello amendment will be defeated. And if it isn’t, he said he will fight to strip it from a final compromise with a similar FAA bill the Senate already passed.

“I will work to restore the well-established union certification process as it was before the NMB unilaterally changed it,” Mr. Mica said.

The bill’s Senate version easily passed, although it didn’t include the House’s union provision.

The overall bill also would ease decades-old restrictions on long-haul flights at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport — a move long pushed by Western lawmakers. They say the rules — instituted to spur travel at newer Washington Dulles International Airport — are outdated and inconvenient.

Federal law prohibits nonstop flights of more than 1,250 miles to and from Reagan Airport, with limited exceptions.



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