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The U.S. House of Representatives today took a critical step towards correcting a regulatory overreach by the National Mediation Board (NMB), an agency in Washington, DC that oversees union elections in the railroad and airline industries under the Railway Labor Act (RLA). Last year, the NMB threw out 75 years of precedent with a rule change that made it far easier to organize unions. In the course of setting new rules, however, the NMB did nothing to revise procedures that make it nearly impossible for railroad and airline workers to decertify an unwanted union — meaning that a union that successfully took over a workplace under the now-relaxed standard would be there forever. As part of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, the House voted 220-206 to void the NMB’s rule and restore fairness to the RLA election process.
The NMB’s decision to change the election rules was made by two former airline union executives, who currently serve on the Board. Prior to this obviously self-interested decision, past members of the NMB from both parties had rejected such a change. In a blatant display of partisanship, these two NMB members excluded the Board’s lone Republican member from the decision-making process and then censored her dissent.
Earlier this week, the White House said that the president would veto the entire FAA reauthorization package if it included language blocking the NMB’s new election scheme. The announcement sets up a showdown in conference committee where the Senate and House versions of the bill will be merged (the Senate version of the bill leaves the NMB’s new rules in place). In response to the veto threat, House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-FL), this week voiced confidence that the NMB language in the House bill will prevail in conference negotiations. Individual workers and the aviation and railroad industries at large will be better off if Congress does its job and puts unelected bureaucrats on notice that sweeping policy change ought to involve the legislative branch of government.