OpenCongress Blog

Blog Feed Comments Feed More RSS Feeds

FAA Bill Would Change Union Formation Rules to Count Abstainers as Votes Against Unionization

March 28, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

For years, congressional Republicans have held back the Democrats’ leading labor bill, the Employee Free Choice Act, by arguing that it goes against the basic democratic value of free and fair elections by allowing workers to unionize without holding a secret ballot election. Now that they have a majority in one chamber of Congress and more control of the legislative calendar, however, they’re pushing anti-union legislation that would undermine the concept of fair elections by counting workers who don’t show up to vote in union elections as votes against forming unions.

The bill, the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011, is on the calendar for debate in the House later this week. Section 903, buried on page 260 of the 261-page bill, would undo a National Mediation Board regulation stating that workers in the aviation and railroad industries who are eligible to vote in a union election but don’t show up to vote are not tallied and not factored in the results. The previous NMB rule that the bill would revert to states that workers who don’t show up are tallied and counted as “no” votes. The NMB only regulates union formation in the aviation and railroad industries. Union elections in all other industries are tallied using fair rules, so this would be an exception for airlines and air transport companies that stand to benefit from blocking their workers from unionizing.

McJoan at DailyKos says the bill would “essentially codify vote fraud in organizing elections.”

According to TPM, the Communications Workers of America is distributing a report to members of Congress today that illustrates the unfairness of the bill by looking at what would have happened to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Mica [R, FL-7], if similar rules governed his election to the House:

Rep. Mica received support from 69% of the voters in his district who cast a ballot in his successful 2010 re-election campaign, amounting to slightly over 185,000 actual votes tallied for him.

However, if you add the over 83,000 voters who voted against Rep. Mica to 312,000 eligible voters who did not participate, then Rep. Mica would only muster 32% of the overall total – falling far short of the majority needed for election. Rep. Mica would lose handily to the 68% of “voters” who chose his opponent or were non-participating voters whose absence was counted as a vote for the alternative.

Over his career, Rep. Mica has received more campaign money from the air transportation industry than from any other industry, by far. In the most recent election cycle, both the air transport industry groups and airlines themselves gave more money to Mica than to any other member of either chamber of Congress.

Rep. Mica is pictured above.

Like this post? Stay in touch by following us on Twitter, joining us on Facebook, or by Subscribing with RSS.


  • pjmerc 03/28/2011 1:03pm

    This whole thing stinks. First of all, no one should be forced to join a union in order to work. Then the Republicans further mess up the whole issue by creating a fraudulent method of voting. Abstain or absent means just that.
    IF people are abstaining from voting for fear of what the union might do to them, then that says something about the union and fear should never be allowed as an incentive to abstain or vote against one’s own principles.
    The thing is also rotten in that the unions donate lots of money to Democrat campaigns (conveniently not mentioned) and the corporations give to the Republicans. Either way, the taxpayer gets screwed. If the corporations get tax incentives, then the tax has to be made up by the taxpayers. If the unions get concessions, then the consumer has pay more for items or services.
    I hate both parties. There’s no difference between them.

  • frukit 03/28/2011 3:25pm

    This just proves the Fact, that our last president showed the Public, that a republican Cannot Be Trusted. Remember this Fact At Election Time, or the Working Man/Woman will Pay a Price That We Do Not Want To Pay.

  • mshughes 03/28/2011 3:53pm

    If any individual person wants unionization, you can bet your last dollar that they will appear for the vote. When there are only two choices, the failure to actively vote is a De facto no vote.

    The comparison between the union vote and Mica’s election is inapplicable to these circumstances as there are more than 2 alternatives. Your argument also assumes that the “abstaining” votes all go to Mica’s opponent. In reality, If we did apply the same principles to political elections, the only reasonable allocation of the “abstaining” votes is the prorata share of the actual votes, yielding the exact same Mica 69% to Opponent 31% result.

    To continue NOT counting “abstaining” votes, they must modify the success criteria to require a “yes” outcome for 50% +1 (of the total group). If not, that presents, theoretically if not practically, the opportunity for 1 person to decide on unionization for all.

  • Denchod1 03/28/2011 5:57pm

    Seriously mshughes? The reason people who want unions don’t show up to vote is because they’re afraid of what the company will do to them if they do show up. They’d rather be safe in case the vote doesn’t go through.

    If you want to allocate abstaining votes to political elections, then the same concept should be applied to union elections as well.

  • Comm_reply
    mshughes 03/29/2011 6:54pm

    My analysis is simply from a statistical standpoint. Allocating abstaining votes in political elections serves no purpose as prorata allocation doesn’t alter the outcome.

    A fear of union retaliation is common, and well founded, but fear of company retaliation is a new position .. do you have specific supportable examples where companies retaliate against voting employees?
  • Comm_reply
    Denchod1 04/01/2011 5:49pm

    I am speaking from personal experience. Three different companies I worked for threatened to fire anyone who voted to unionize and in an attempt to bust the union, the last one tried to open a subsidiary that was non-union. When the workers made it clear they intended to become a union shop, the company said they’d shut it down. The workers voted for the union and the company shut down the shop. The company was sued by the union and the union won. The company paid out settlements to each individual worker equivalent to the wages they would have earned until retirement.

    I don’t know where people are afraid of what the unions will do to them. That fear certainly doesn’t exist around here. Seems to me if people were afraid of what the union would do to them, they’d vote for the union rather than abstain and open themselves up to the union’s wrath.

  • Comm_reply
    fakk2 04/03/2011 1:22pm

    I’m really wondering what industries those 3 companies were in, but it’s such an old thread, the world may never know.

  • Comm_reply
    Denchod1 04/08/2011 5:48pm

    Two retail and the last was a parts supplier for the automotive companies.

  • DeborahJBrown 03/29/2011 4:18am

    Changing the meaning of the word “Abstain” to “No” is just plain wrong. They should have a right to not give an opinion, particularly when they recognize that they don’t know the facts of an issue or even see two sides to the issue. This is no different that forcing a Yes or a No and excluding Abstain.

  • Comm_reply
    mshughes 03/29/2011 7:22pm

    That’s really just semantics .. at the end of the day, if the vote is not a yes, then it’s a no, regardless of the reasoning. If it suits your semantic sensibility better, you can label the outcomes “yes” and “not yes” to broaden the non-supporting bucket.

    The point is not to exclude abstaining votes .. it is, in fact, to include the abstaining vote in the total available number of votes so that all employees votes, or lack of votes, are considered. In the end, there are only 2 voting options: “yes” and “not yes”.

  • Tracey 03/29/2011 6:52am

    “Over his career, Rep. Mica has received more campaign money from the air transportation industry than from any other industry, by far. In the most recent election cycle, both the air transport industry groups and airlines themselves gave more money to Mica than to any other member of either chamber of Congress.”

    This illustrates a common problem in politics and government regulation, in general. We like to think that government is neutral with respect to its regulation of industry, but it’s not. Lobbyists exist because of the regulators.

  • GML 03/29/2011 10:11pm

    It’s about time the majority of folks in this country wake up before it’s too late.
    Our country is not controlled by government but by big corporations who make up there own rules as they go along…The real question is…What can we do about it besides complaining?

  • Comm_reply
    fakk2 03/30/2011 11:11am

    The best thing we can do is get our state legislatures to have a backbone and fight for their rights to control their states under the 10th Amendment. It’s a lot harder to influence 50 legislatures than just 1 and requires an enormous amount of resources to get the same outcome in all 50 legislatures.

    For example, if the air transportation industry spends $1 million this year on lobbying in Congress, then they would have to spend probably somewhere around $35 – $50 million to lobby all 50 state legislatures to get the same outcome, which includes hiring more people to do the lobbying.

    It’s also easier for citizens to watchdog their state legislature and change things than it is to watchdog Congress, which is almost impossible for most citizens to visit every year and meet with their representative.

Due to the archiving of this blog, comment posting has been disabled.