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Republicans Are Going After Unions at the Federal Level Too

March 8, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

While all the attention on the Republicans’ union busting agenda has been focused on the states, Republicans in Congress have been quietly moving forward with anti-union legislation on the federal level. In February, the House Transportation Committee marked up a Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill (H.R.658) that contains this innocuous looking provision on page 260 of 261:


Effective January 1, 2011, the rule prescribed by the National Mediation Board relating to representation election procedures published on May 11, 2010 (95 Fed. Reg. 26062) and revising sections 1202 and 1206 of title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, shall have no force or effect.

The language would amend rules for rail and aviation workers who try to form a union so that when a worker does not show up to vote at an election on certifying a union, they’re automatically counted as a vote against forming the union. Under current rules, workers that don’t show up to vote are simply not counted. The current rules were established by the National Mediation Board last July, bringing this aspect of the transportation industry’s union rules into parity with all other industries.

The bill will come up for a vote in the House soon, and it’s expected to pass. The question is what happens when it moves to a conference committee to be reconciled with a corresponding Senate FAA bill, which does not include the anti-union language. As HuffPo reports, it’s not clear that Senate Democrats are committed to it:

Union operatives have turned their sights to the Senate, where a different version of the FAA reauthorization bill passed in mid-February. Sens. Jay Rockeller (D-W.V.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) are being petitioned especially heavily to strip [the anti-union] provision when the two congressional chambers meet to merge their respective bills.


Costello, the Illinois congressman, predicted that the measure would not pass the Senate. “And if it does,” he added, “I would doubt the White House would sign the bill with the provision in it. I think it’s a showstopper.”

Such public resolve, however, is somewhat at odds with blunt political calculations. While Harkin and others may be insisting that Mica’s provision be exorcised from the bill, in private, aides question whether the appetite is there to hold the line.

“Now that it is in the bill and it is going to conference, the dynamics have changed,” acknowledged one top Democratic Senate aide. “Senator Harkin would of course vehemently say it shouldn’t be in there. But the question is, will people vote down the entire bill over it?”

While last year’s rule change was a cherished breakthrough for the labor community, the practical impact has not been as widely felt as anticipated, Democratic aides noted. One aide opposed to Mica’s provision said unions have actually had a lower success rate since the NMB’s ruling, winning only nine of 17 elections. “The new rule, in and of itself, will not cause an avalanche of unionism,” the aide added, in an effort to downplay conservative critiques.

UPDATE: I should add that Rep. John Mica [R, FL-7], the primary sponsor of the FAA bill, has received more money from the airline industry than from any other industry. $92,200 in the 2009-2010 cycle alone. Check out his full money trail here.

Photo from Flickr user Zen used under a CC license.

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  • frukit 03/08/2011 2:47pm

    The republicans will have a Hard time Getting The Working Man & Working Womans’ Vote in the Upcoming Elections, After treating Them This Way.They Are unfit To Run an honest Government.

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    fakk2 03/09/2011 3:18pm

    Yeah, because the Democrats never lie. After all, Obama has only broken, what, like 10 campaign promises?

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    badams82 03/09/2011 5:28pm


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    fakk2 03/09/2011 9:59pm


    Where is it in the constitution that workers have a right to collectively bargain? We’re getting caught up in the “right to rights” mentality. We do have certain inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness. But we don’t have a right to collectively bargain, or a right to education, or a right to a well paying job, or anything else except for the first 3 mentioned. The “right to rights” mentality twists government from what it’s supposed to be to what we want it to be. It works great as an equalizer: Protecting borders, regulating trade, etc. It sucks as a charity. Government is about taking, pure and simple. To give anything, it must first take it away from someone or something else. Instead of allowing the government to be a middle-man, we could just do things our own selves and be MUCH better off. Who says 10,000 people can’t put $1,000 together and start their own business, like a utility company, or an airliner, or anything else reserved only for the elites?

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    fakk2 03/09/2011 9:59pm

    Hell, if you look at how few people donate @, it’s a stark reality bomb to see how much can be done by so few.

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    amy58103 03/10/2011 7:20am

    Where in the constitution does it say that we are entitled to the inalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness?

    I do know that the 4th Amendment says: “no person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”

    Close, but not exactly the same thing.

    As far as I know, the constitution does not address the pursuit of happiness. The constitution does state that life and liberty CAN be taken away with due process of the law (therefore, life and liberty are NOT inalienable).

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    fakk2 03/10/2011 12:33pm

    You are correct amy58103. Nowhere in the Constitution does it state “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”. That is from the Declaration of Independence.

    But I think the Constitution does protect this, with almost exactly the amendment you are referring to (it’s the 5th Amendment, not the 4th). We are free to live life, as we see fit, in our personal pursuit of happiness, granted to us by liberty, until we infringe on someone else’s life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness by breaking the law. At that point, through our choices, we have given power to the rule of law to “decide our fates” so to say. And the 5th Amendment reiterates that fact through granting liberty and property rights as sacred, except through due process.

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    HildaSuf 03/20/2011 11:30pm

    The Republicans are not trying to hurt the workers – an honest government tells the truth – if the money is not there, it can’t be given.
    People want an honest government – that will admit there is a problem with spending, & debt has to be dealt with.
    The Republicans were elected 11/2nd to address Americas’ problems – they are doing this, and this will get them elected in 2012.

  • Spam Comment

  • nmeagent 03/09/2011 8:47pm


    Now I’m off to buy some semi (or dump) truck insurance.

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    mshughes 03/10/2011 3:38pm

    Better hurry … if it’s that easy, it’ll be gone soon! :-)

  • qbit 03/16/2011 5:51am

    One fact that all the so called “Working Man & Working Woman” fail to see is that they already receive benefits provided by tax dollars. Benefits that the Private sector does not! The private sector is not provided free or subsidized benefits!

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