The House this week will vote on a bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has been acting without a full authorization for more than three years (and through 18 continuing resolutions). However, inserted into a bill dealing with flights into D.C.’s national airport and upgrades of air traffic control facilities is an anti-union provision meant to prevent workers from exercising their right to organize.
The provision, backed by House Transportation Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), would reverse a ruling by the National Mediation Board that did away with the absurd practice of counting workers who didn’t vote in union elections as having voted against the union. Since the NMB’s ruling, workers who don’t vote in union elections are simply not counted at all, just like voters who choose not to vote in elections for local, state, or federal governments.
Why would Mica want to reverse a ruling that treats union elections like any other election, including those for Congress? Perhaps because he has received far more money from transportation companies — which would desperately like to see the NMB’s ruling reversed — than from any other group in his career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics:
FedEx — which is fighting the NMB’s change tooth and nail — is one of Mica’s highest contributors. (FedEX CEO Fred Smith has said that “I don’t intend to recognize any unions at Federal Express.”) Delta is also lobbying heavily for the Republican-backed provision, even “forgoing selling seats to paying customers to fly their employees — contra stated corporate policy — to DC to lobby.”
Under the old rules, corporations were able to game union elections by including the names of former employees (some of whom were dead) on their employment rolls; of course, these employees didn’t vote and thus were counted as voting against unionization. And if the rules Mica wants to reinstate for union elections were applied to his own election, he would have lost handily:
Rep. Mica received support from 69% of the voters in his district who cast a ballot in his successful 2010 re-election campaign, amounting to slightly over 185,000 actual votes tallied for him. However, if you add the over 83,000 voters who voted against Rep. Mica to 312,000 eligible voters who did not participate, then Rep. Mica would only muster 32% of the overall total — falling far short of the majority needed for election. Rep. Mica would lose handily to the 68% of “voters” who chose his opponent or were non-participating voters whose absence was counted as a vote for the alternative.
This is a pretty clear case of Republicans doing the bidding of corporations, with no real policy rationale behind their legislation. Incidentally, Mica’s chief of staff recently left to become a lobbyist for the transportation industry.