U.S. Chamber Challenges 'Dramatic Policy Shift' in Rules Governing Union Organizing in Rail, Airline Industries

Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 8:00pm

Federal agency unlawfully abandoned 75 years of precedent, Chamber lawsuit argues

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Today, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed a motion to intervene as a party-plaintiff in a federal lawsuit challenging a new labor organizing rule by the National Mediation Board (NMB), which abandoned 75 years of precedent and makes it much easier for unions to organize in the airline and railroad industries, while simultaneously making it more difficult to decertify unions. The case is Air Transport Association v. National Mediation Board.

"The National Mediation Board's partisan new rule gives organized labor an unfair advantage in unionizing, and makes it all but impossible for workers to decertify a union," said Robin S. Conrad, executive vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the Chamber's public policy law firm. "Under the confusing new rule, even if a majority of workers oppose unionizing, a union could be certified. And a union may not be decertified even if a majority of workers vote to remove the union."

For 75 years, the NMB interpreted the Railway Labor Act (RLA) to require a majority of the entire workforce to favor unionizing. After President Obama appointed the former head of a flight attendant union to the 3-member NMB board, the member joined a fellow Democratic board member to draft a new interpretation of the RLA that would allow a minority of the employees in a work group to choose union representation for all of the employees. The Final Rule was approved by a 2-1 party line vote with a sharp dissent by the Republican-appointed Board Chairwoman, who the other board members excluded from the rulemaking process. In her dissent, Dougherty explained that the new rule is "an unprecedented departure for the NMB and represents the most dramatic policy shift in the history of the agency."

"Not only has the Board been so bold as to throw out 75 years of precedent to tip the scales in favor of organized labor," said Randel K. Johnson, senior vice president of Labor, Immigration, and Employee Benefits for the Chamber. "It has done so in a manner that was inherently defective and makes a mockery out of the administrative process."

NCLC is the public policy law firm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that advocates fair treatment of business in the courts and before regulatory agencies.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world's largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

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