Press Releases

House Votes to Treat Union Elections Differently from Every Other American Election

Friday, April 1, 2011

Washington — Today in the House of Representatives, an amendment to strip the unfair elections provision from the larger FAA Reauthorization bill was defeated by a 220-206 vote.  Despite the bedrock democratic principles of fairness at stake, the bi-partisan sponsorship of this amendment by Steven LaTourette (R-OH) and Jerry Costello (D-IL), and supportive votes from 16 Republican members, Republican leadership and their ideological benefactors went to extreme lengths to ensure that Congress was the latest front in the ongoing ideological attack on  workers’ rights.

The amendment vote happened after a heavy lobbying effort against fair elections, due in part to an all-out lobbying blitz by anti-union ideologues and tactics such as Delta Airlines “giving employees free flights to Washington to lobby against liberalizing union rules for airline workers,” as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Yet despite the ideological composition of today’s vote and the larger assaults against unions, the issue at stake was really a matter of basic fairness.  The provision inside the FAA bill would count eligible voters who did not vote in an election the same as if they voted “no” – an undemocratic and unfair standard different from every other American election. 

Already, the Obama Administration has threatened to veto the overall FAA bill if the unfair elections provision remains in the legislation after conference negotiations.  As the official Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) noted, “If the President is presented with a bill that would not safeguard the ability of railroad and airline workers to decide whether or not they would be represented by a union based upon a majority of the ballots cast in an election or that would degrade safe and efficient air traffic, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill.”

The Senate version of the FAA legislation, which already passed that chamber, does not contain this anti-worker provision.  The Communications Workers of America looks forward to working with Senators of both parties to strip this violation of fair election standards from the larger bill during the conference committee process. 

Though some Members of Congress and their ideological benefactors were happy to advance  such an inherently unfair election standard for union elections, undoubtedly they would not appreciate it if congressional elections were conducted in following those same rules. Under the standard they are proposing for NMB elections, not one of the current Members of Congress would have won election in 2010, per a report from CWA. 

Beyond ideological opposition to unions, it’s hard to find a reason or rationale for wanting to return to such an egregiously unfair election model.  In fact, since last year, when airline and rail workers’ election rules were brought in line with every other election we hold in our democracy, successful and unsuccessful unionization votes have been split roughly 50-50.  The rule change is about fair elections for everyone, not an inherent boon to unions.