NMB Rule Change Draws Broad Congressional Support

The National Mediation Board’s (NMB) proposed change to its current election process is gaining wide bi partisan support in Congress. On December 7, 2009, James Oberstar (D-MN), Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and George Miller (D-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, led 178 Democratic members of the House of Representatives in sending the NMB a letter in support of the agency’s proposed rule change that would end its practice of counting eligible voters who do not cast a ballot as voting against unionization.

“We believe such an election system is inappropriate for any industry,” wrote the House Democrats. “The process is all the more flawed in a setting where voter rolls include significant numbers of furloughed employees who are not in regular communication with other voters.” Their complete letter with all signatories is available here.

Thirteen House Republicans sent the NMB their own letter of support, stating “We believe it is a fundamental matter of fairness for workers governed by the Railway Labor Act to have the same opportunity to determine the question of representation through the same democratic method practiced in other industries and throughout our society.” The House Republicans December 1, 2009 letter is available here.

Dozens of United States Senators also agree with the Machinists Union that now is the time to ensure workers have a fair chance to express their true feelings in union representation elections. Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Chairman of the Appropriations Committee and John Rockefeller (D-WY), Chairman of the Commerce Committee and 36 other Senators also sent a letter to the NMB in support of their proposed change on December 7, 2009.

“We strongly believe that the same democratic process that governs other elections – requiring a simple majority of those who cast a ballot – should be extended to workers covered by the Railway Labor Act,” wrote the Senators. “Aviation and rail workers should not be subject to a different and more onerous process when deciding whether to choose union representation.” The Senate letter is available here.