For Air and Rail Workers, New NMB Rule Means ‘Democracy’

A new rule issued yesterday by the National Mediation Board (NMB) means airline and rail workers will now be able to choose whether to join a union under rules that are more fair and more in line with democratic principles.

For decades, the deck has been stacked against workers covered under the Rail Labor Act (RLA) because every worker who did not cast a vote in a representation election was automatically counted as a “No” vote. The new NMB rule says that an election’s outcome will be decided by the majority of votes cast, just like every other election, from city council to the presidency.

Patricia Friend, president of the Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), says that flight attendants and other aviation and rail workers “have faced significant obstacles in their quest for collective bargaining rights.”

Outdated and unreliable voting procedures have fostered a unique culture of voter suppression as companies understand that impeding union organizing merely requires preventing employees from voting.

Employers and their outside union-busting companies engaged in the most undemocratic of practices by openly encouraging workers to destroy ballots and to not vote. Those days are now over.

Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD), says the change in rules guarantees

only workers who cast a vote will be counted…which ensures greater fairness in union elections for airline and rail workers across the country.

Janette Rook, AFA-CWA Northwest President, says, “Democracy won today.”

The over 7,000 Northwest AFA-CWA members look forward to voting in an election where there will be a level playing field. Northwest flight attendants have had union representation and a legally binding contract for over 60 years and we have worked tirelessly to maintain those rights.  Since the recent merger with Delta, Northwest flight attendants have been concerned our rights would be taken away. However, today democracy has prevailed and every vote will be counted.

AFA-CWA says it will file for an election in 30 days when the  new rule becomes effective.

[This article also appeared on the AFL-CIO blog]