27 Republicans Sign Resolution To Block Use Of Democratic Process In Union Elections

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

This week, the National Mediation Board (NMB) announced a rule change making union elections under the Railway Labor Act (RLA) more democratic. Previously, under the RLA, workers who did not cast votes in an election were counted as having voted against unionization. Now, though, they will simply not be counted at all, like non-voters in any election for political office.

This change has upset airlines governed by the RLA — particularly Delta Airlines, which is largely non-union — prompting them to launch a lawsuit in an attempt to block the rule change. And these corporations have some allies in Congress, who have launched a concurrent attempt to legislatively prevent the change.

The charge is being led by Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), whose number one campaign contributor this election cycle is Atlanta-based Delta. He is circling a “resolution of disapproval,” which, if adopted by both the Senate and the House and signed by the President within 60 days of a rule being published, negates that rule’s effect. “I will use all available tools at my disposal…to see that this assault on employee rights does not stand,” Isakson said.

So far, Isakson has managed to drum up 27 co-sponsors for his resolution. It’s quite remarkable that these lawmakers are willing to sign their names to a document rendering disapproval of the democratic process. After all, they are explicitly endorsing the idea that uncast votes should be counted one way or the other.

Plus, as United Steelworkers International President Leo Gerard wrote, the process which the NMB overturned provided huge incentives for corporations to inflate their workforce numbers, in order to increase the number of votes necessary to approve the union:

Compounding that supermajority obstacle was the NMB practice of permitting employers to determine who was eligible to vote, then excusing them from providing that list to workers seeking collective bargaining. This created an incentive for employers to “accidently” include the names of workers who’d quit or retired — ineligible voters whose inability to cast ballots created automatic “no” votes. Writing about losing an election in 2008, Delta flight attendant Linda Sorenson said airline officials released its list after the balloting. Among other problems, it included the name of a deceased worker.

These sorts of shenanigans have no place in a fair election process, and the system which the Republicans are trying to preserve obviously incentivizes them. But Isakson is pressing on, undeterred. “We will have the signatures necessary to discharge my resolution of disapproval, to bring about a vote on the floor of the Senate,” Isakson said yesterday. Fortunately, the odds of President Obama signing such a resolution, even if Isakson found 51 votes in favor of it in the Senate, are, I think, effectively nil.