Monday, May 10, 2010

Rail, airline union organizers win big at the NMB

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In a move encouraged by the White House to boost the thinning ranks of organized labor, the National Mediation Board announced Monday that it had adopted a rule that would approve a union organizing initiative if a simple majority of workers casting ballots voted in favor of organizing.

The new rule, if it survives expected challenges, will replace one that required the approval of a majority of the entire workforce, meaning that each non-voting worker was counted as casting a “no” vote.

The Associated Press called NMB’s action “the most significant so far in a string of White House moves designed to boost organized labor.”

Railroads and airlines are subject to NMB regulations; other industries adhere to rules of the National Labor Relations Board, where the outcome of an organizing election is determined by the workers actually voting.

The new rule could have an early import at Delta Air Lines, where a move is under way to organize flight attendants. Organizing efforts at several smaller, newer airlines could also be affected. A challenge to the new rule is expected to be filed by the Air Transport Association.

The NMB proposed the rule not long after President Obama named the former head of a flight attendant union, Linda Puchala, to the board.

The dissenting vote was cast by Chairwomen Elizabeth Dougherty, an appointee of President George W. Bush.

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