A proposal that would make it easier for unions to enlist members from among railroad and other transportation workers is facing a new challenge from a free market advocacy group.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation recently filed a motion with the National Mediation Board that would force two board members to remove themselves from voting on the issue.
The group says the two board members — Harry Hoglander and Linda Puchala — are former union officials who have a conflict of interest. They were appointed to the National Mediation Board by President Obama.
The National Mediation Board is an independent U.S. government agency that oversees labor-relations in the railroad and airline industries. The board’s regulations and policies are supposed to meet its statutory obligation of minimizing work stoppages.
Until now, only if a majority of workers at a job site voted for being represented by a union could they engage in collective bargaining with the employer. For any workers who fail to cast their ballot, they are counted as a “no” vote against unionization.
The National Mediation Board is considering a new rule that would allow only the votes that are actually cast to be counted. In those cases, a majority of workers who participate in the vote decide whether to unionize their workplaces.
Any workers who do not vote would not be counted either for or against unionization.
Both Hoglander and Puchala voted for the rule change in a preliminary decision of the three-member National Mediation Board.
Hoglander is a former union official for the Air Line Pilots Association and Puchala was an officer of the Association of Flight Attendants.
“If these members do not recuse themselves, the [National Mediation Board’s] actions will betray the integrity of government decision-making as well as President Obama’s pledge that his personnel would avoid these very violations of ethics,” said Stefan Gleason, vice president of National Right to Work.
The advocacy group says the rule change would impose a burden on employees who do not want union representation by forcing them to oppose the union or face the risk that less than a majority of workers could decide for them whether to unionize.
Labor unions say the proposed rule change would reverse years of anti-union bias.
“The current rules also encourage employer-run voter suppression campaigns and deny aviation and rail workers the unfettered right to choose whether they want union representation,” said Edward Wytkind, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
Contact: Anthony Riedel, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, (800) 336-3600 ext. 3320.