Republicans Threaten To Use ‘All Available Tools’ To Oppose Making Union Elections More Democratic

Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

Sens. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

Yesterday, the National Mediation Board, which oversees labor-management relations under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) changed an antiquated rule for RLA union elections, which stated that a majority of all workers — including those on furlough, military leave and extended medical leave — had to approve the union, instead of a majority of voting members. So workers who didn’t cast a vote were counted as voting against the union.

The NMB’s ruling means that, henceforth, RLA elections operate like any election for political office, with uncast ballots simply not being counted. But the companies affected by the change, particularly those in the airline industry, liked the higher bar for unionization set by the previous rule. So the Air Transport Association — acting on behalf of Delta Airlines, Jet Blue, and United Airlines, among others — has launched a lawsuit to try and prevent the rule change from being implemented.

And yesterday, Georgia’s two Republican Senators, as well as the ranking member of the House Education and Labor committee, threw their support to the corporations trying to keep the bar for unionization unjustifiably high:

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA): I will use all available tools at my disposal…to see that this assault on employee rights does not stand.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said he would “continue to work to see that this change does not stand.

Rep. John Kline (R-MN), “also slammed the rule change, saying the board ‘imposed a quick fix at the behest of organized labor.‘”

I’d like to see what these lawmakers think of a proposal to count all uncast votes towards their opponent’s total in their next election. That, after all, is the system that they are trying to preserve.

Of course, despite their appeals to “employee rights,” the GOP’s opposition is really about protecting the corporations that may be affected. Delta, which is largely non-union, has its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, and is currently the largest contributor to Isakson’s reelection campaign. It is the fifth largest contributor to Isakson in his career.

This is very similar to Sens. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) fighting to preserve an inequity in labor law that makes it more difficult for drivers at Memphis-based Federal Express to unionize. And the end goal of all these efforts is to keep in place rules that arbitrarily deny collective bargaining rights to workers who legitimately want them.