In last week’s primary election in North Carolina, Democrats failed to select a Senate nominee. Elaine Marshall finished first and Cal Cunningham second, but the failure of either candidate to reach the 40 percent threshold means that the two must face each other once again in a runoff next month.
Imagine what would happen if the governor of North Carolina stepped into this situation and decided, unilaterally, to change the rules so that Marshall can win with her plurality.
This is essentially what Democratic appointees on an obscure labor panel have done to the airline industry, the Associated Press reports. As a huge favor to the unions that want to organize Delta Airlines, the least unionized major airline in a heavily (two-thirds) unionized airline industry, they have effectively lowered the threshold of employee support for unionizing airlines.
This collusion from the Obama administration comes only after repeated, failed attempts by unionists to take over at Delta under the current rules on union elections.
Ever since it was amended to apply to airlines in 1936, the Railway Labor Act has placed special restrictions on their unions (and those of rail carriers) that do not apply to employees in most businesses. Companies must be organized nationwide, not piecemeal as in other industries, and there are special rules for strikes. The idea is to prevent any one small, local union from stymieing the nation’s entire transportation system by disrupting services in one area over a local dispute.
Until now, another major difference for companies regulated under the Railway Act, as opposed to the National Labor Relations Act, is the method by which elections are held to determine whether employees will unionize. Unions must win the support of a majority of employees in a massive mail-in election. Because the union needs an absolute majority of employees, those who throw away their ballots and fail to vote are effectively treated as “no” votes. It seems fair enough: if a majority of employees either oppose a union or are too ambivalent or apathetic to choose it, the union probably does not have any business representing them.
But the change by the National Mediation Board, requested by the AFL-CIO and brought about by Obama’s appointment of former flight attendants’ union president Linda Puchala, means that now unions need only win support from a majority of those who actually return ballots.
This means turbulence not only for Delta, but also for the more recently founded airlines, such as Jet Blue, who have thrived and made money in a tough industry by avoiding the GM-style labor-management relations of many large legacy carriers.
To make matters a bit worse, says James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation, the Railway Labor Act does not contain any process for decertifying a union.
So even if the unions don’t get card-check, they’re getting something big from Obama. It looks like labor’s $100 million in contributions to Democrats in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles weren’t wasted.