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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.

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