Ready for President Obama’s signature, after passage in both the House and Senate, is a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization conference report that includes long-overdue reforms to the National Mediation Board (NMB) aimed at helping the economy and removing barriers to job creation.
Since 1934, the NMB – which is responsible for protecting the rights of workers and employers in the U.S. railroad and airline industries – upheld a rule designed to reduce air and rail strikes that could be harmful to the economy by ensuring that a majority of airline and rail employees support union representation. In November of 2009, the NMB overturned this common-sense rule and 75 years of labor policy, stacking the deck for organized labor in union elections and increasing the chance of costly strikes in critical industries that could damage our economy.
After months of contentious negotiations, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and House Republicans reached an agreement with Senate Democrats on the FAA measure that includes unprecedented labor reforms to the National Mediation Board. For example, under the agreement:
- The showing of interest threshold is now 50 percent of eligible employees for all union elections (previously it was only 35 percent for a new union and 50 percent to change or decertify an existing union).
- In the event of a run-off election, the top two options will be in the run-off (previously it was the top two unions in the run-off – so if Union A received 47 percent of the vote, Union B received 10 percent of the vote, and no-union received 43 percent of the vote, the two unions would be in the run-off with no opportunity for employees to vote for the no-union option).
- Within 180 days of enactment, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) must provide a report on certification procedures and make recommendations to Congress on any potential changes. The report must compare and contrast the NMB with other federal & state entities that have similar labor-related jurisdictions and evaluate the current and past NMB practices with congressional intent.
- All substantive NMB rulemakings will now require a public hearing (including notice for the hearing, a transcript of the hearing, and other requirements from the Administrative Procedures Act).
- GAO must also conduct an audit of the NMB at least every two years to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of all NMB operations, including the certification process (NMB currently has no Inspector General or meaningful oversight whatsoever).
In short, House Republicans achieved reforms that reinstitute the majority-of-eligible threshold at an earlier stage in the process, eliminates a union tactic to force run-off elections, and implements new levels of transparency and oversight at the NMB where previously there was none. Labor bosses opposed the reforms, stating in a letter that:
“Rewarding the House Republican Leadership’s desire to rewrite decades of long standing labor law in a flash by inserting an unrelated and controversial labor provision in a much needed aviation safety and security bill, without notice, hearing, or debate, sets an extremely dangerous precedent. We urge the Senate to delete the provisions of the bill that would amend the RLA and pass the clean FAA Reauthorization that all concerned recognize this country sorely needs and supports.”
Republicans have kept a relentless focus on jobs, sending nearly 30 jobs bills to the Senate over the last year that Democratic leaders are blocking. The FAA conference report is but the latest example of Republicans fighting to grow our economy and break down barriers to private-sector job creation.