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Trump: Decertify Your Railroad Union

Railroad and Airline Unions: This new proposed rule would end a 93 year old law that has protected you

Kris LaGrange's picture
Mar 11, 2019

In Trump’s continuing war on labor unions, his administration is looking into making it easier for some employees to decertify their union. Decertification is the process that employees go through to kick their union out as the bargaining agent for the workplace.

The National Mediation Board (NMB), which is stacked with Trump appointees, is looking to create a new rule that would make it easier for employees that are covered under the Railway Labor Act of 1926 (RLA) to destroy their union. Currently, all employees covered under the act, which includes railroad employees as well as people who work in the airline industry, are free bargaining. This means that even if they live in a Right to Work state, the union is still allowed to collect agency fees. The giveback for workers is that it is harder for them to strike. For 93 years this law has kept relative labor peace within the nation’s transportation workforce. It has led to strong unions that have provided good paying jobs to millions of Americans.

For anyone who works under the RLA and who wants to decertify their union, they must first collect signatures from 50% of their workforce. Once that threshold is met, they must then designate a “straw man” who is running against the union to represent the employees. Anyone who is in the union then gets to vote, either for the union, for the “straw man,” or for no representation. This gives the employees the choice, if the union is not working in their best interest, they can choose a new representative instead of having to hold multiple elections.

The new rule would eliminate the “straw man,” claiming that this is only there to confuse people who want to leave the union. Under this new proposed rule, employees would only have the option to vote union, no union, or write in a vote. If successful it would also ban any union from attempting to re-organize the workforce for two years, an increase from the current one-year ban.

According to Bloomberg, unions that are covered under the RLA have been submitting comments opposing the measure and are preparing to sue if the new rule takes effect. Larry Willis, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department went so far as to say the rule is “a solution in search of a problem.”

The decision to make the rule change, after 93 years, came just weeks after a November 14th decision by the National Labor Relations Board. In that decision, the board found that baggage handlers, plane cleaners, runway assistants, and other airport workers are included under the RLA. It should come as no surprise that many of these employees are lower wage workers and some have even been instrumental in the Fight for $15 movement. For example, baggage handlers in New York, who are members of SEIU, held protests and strikes which led to the State instituting a $15 minimum wage at all NYC airports.

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