CEI Experts Call for Reform of Union Election Rules

Washington, D.C., February 25, 2011—Until recently, the Railway Labor Act (RLA) enabled a union to organize a bargaining unit of a transportation company if the majority of all workers in that unit agreed to unionize. These rules—which stood for 75 years—protected railway and airline workers from being propelled into joining a union without a majority vote from their peers company-wide.

But that has changed. In July 2010, the National Mediation Board (NMB) significantly revised RLA voting rules. Under the new rules, a union election is decided by a majority of votes cast—not a majority of all eligible workers. The Board—whose three members were appointed by President Obama—has also drastically changed election write-in procedures and has continued to make rule revisions, announcing new changes as recently as February 16.

In a new CEI OnPoint briefing paper, “The Case for Reform of the Railway Labor Act,” Adjunct Analyst Russ Brown and Labor Policy Fellow Ivan Osorio explain how the NMB’s rule changes will hurt the railway and airline industries while limiting workers’ rights. As a case study, Brown and Osorio consider recent Delta Airlines union elections, in which 50,000 employees voted against unionization in seven different elections.

“Now the National Mediation Board has changed the rules to favor the unions in elections they would otherwise lose,” the authors write. “With Congress having rejected changing the law to favor unionization, the Obama administration is now pursuing unionization through regulation, which will benefit no one other than the administration’s union allies. Circumventing the people’s elected representatives is unacceptable. Congress needs to hold National Mediation Board accountable for any attempt to do so.”

Read the full CEI OnPoint here.