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Obama's Big Labor Wins a Big One


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American Spectator:

Unions have been disappointed by the Obama administration's inability to move their agenda forward. But they finally won a victory last week. This is bad news for America's transport sector, not to mention travelers and businesses of all sizes that rely on rail and air shipping, because it could cause major disruptions to travel and commerce.

Last year, the National Mediation Board (NMB), the government agency charged with overseeing labor relations in the railroad and airlines industries, changed voting rules to favor unionization. On Friday, December 16, 2011, the U.S. Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia upheld the rule change as consistent with the Railway Labor Act (RLA).

However, as dissenting Circuit Judge Karen Henderson explained, the NMB failed to provide any justification for changing a rule that had stood for 75 years.

The Act clearly states: "The majority of any craft or class of employees shall have the right to determine who shall be the representative of the craft or class." A craft or class is any job classification that may be organized as a bargaining unit of like workers -- for example, railroad engineers or airline pilots. The new rule makes it possible for a minority of the employees of a craft or class to vote in a union.

The rule change predictably met with strong objections from most of railroad and airline companies. The Air Transport Association of America and U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a lawsuit challenging it. But this is no simple labor versus management dispute. Several Delta Airlines employees also filed suit on the grounds that the rule change violated their rights of freedom of association.

Congress passed the RLA to govern railway unions in 1926 and expanded it to include airlines in 1936. In order to avoid disruptions to America's transport network through strikes and other kinds of work stoppages, the Act imposed mandatory mediation and gave the president the ability to order workers back to work.

The RLA allows unions to organize workers for the purpose of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement as the workers' exclusive representative. However, unlike the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which regulates labor relations in other industries and allows unions to organize on a location-by-location basis, the RLA requires a bargaining unit to include all the workers of the same classification throughout an entire company.snip
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