(Pat Hickey) – This week, the U.S. Senate is slated to vote on Senate Joint Resolution 30 (S.J. Res. 30) that would overturn the Obama administration’s undemocratic regulation put through by the National Mediation Board (NMB).
It is critical for the U.S. Senate to support this resolution, which stops the NMB from allowing unions to be created without a majority vote by a company’s employees. If this resolution fails, countless businesses and employees around the nation will be hurt—and transportation and tourism here in Nevada will suffer yet another hit.
Workers have long had the right to band together in labor groups, seek union representation, and bargain collectively—and they should retain this right. But by the same token, employees can also choose not to unionize. And this is the choice that they increasingly make.
Over the last several decades, private sector union membership has dropped dramatically. Only about 8 percent of private sector employees are now unionized, compared to nearly 40 percent in the mid-1950s.
Dwindling membership rolls have put enormous strain on labor organizations, which must continue to fund their activities and pension obligations. To help shore up their eroding influence and coffers, unions have been seeking government help in the form of new rules and laws that will force employees into the union fold.
Over the last several years, organized labor have lobbied for–but have not won–passage of the misleadingly named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), also known as “card check” legislation. Under EFCA, workplaces could have been unionized without a fair and traditional secret ballot vote and with as little as five days notice of the election. This proposal was so patently unfair that even many pro-labor legislators refused to support it.
With the failure so far of EFCA, union leaders have been seeking other, less visible ways to gain unfair advantages through changes to the bureaucracy of U.S. labor relations.
The most egregious example now comes from the NMB, which oversees labor relations for the airline and rail industries. As in other industries, a majority of a company’s employees must vote to approve the formation of a union. If an air or rail company has 1,000 employees, then 501 votes are needed to authorize a union.
The NMB, now staffed with – and prodded by – labor activists, is proposing an unconscionable rule change that would allow a company to be unionized when just a majority of those voting approves a union. That means if only 700 people in our hypothetical 1,000-employee company vote, then only 351 votes are needed to form a union. Minority rule can and will win union elections under the new NMB rules.
For its 75-year history, through Democratic and Republican administrations alike, the NMB has respected the majority vote and left significant rule-setting to Congress. Elizabeth Dougherty, the chair of the NMB made this very point in opposing the new biased rule: “Regardless of the composition of the board or the inhabitant of the White House, this independent agency has never been in the business of making controversial, one-sided rule changes at the behest of only labor or management.”
While the NMB oversees labor relations in the railroad and airline industries, this proposal could set in motion broader changes that would unfairly and undemocratically strengthen the hand of organized labor across industries.
In addition, because the NMB rule promises to drive up transportation costs, Nevada would bear an unfair burden of the financial impact. Increased airline costs would mean fewer travelers to Nevada destinations. And higher rail fees would bring new costs to Nevada’s mining and ranching operations. Our economy is already on the ropes, we can’t have government instituting new shocks that could make items even worse.
With the campaign season in full swing, voters are paying close attention to headline issues such as taxation and unemployment. But, additional costs arising from the NMB rule would result in greater unemployment and economic harm.
If Members of Congress want to support democratic principles, new jobs, and economic recovery, they will vote “Yes” on the joint resolution to stop the NMB’s terrible proposal to revamp rules that would force thousands of workers into unions.
Let’s not lose sight of this issue—now and when we vote in November.
(Mr. Hickey is a former member of the Nevada State Assembly)