Rep. Gingrey to introduce bill ripping into Obama Labor Department’s airline unionization plans

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Republican Georgia Rep. Phil Gingrey plans to introduce a bill that will restore the Department of Labor’s union election rules for specialized industries, like airline workers, to what they were before President Barack Obama took office.

Obama’s political appointees to the DOL’s National Mediation Board lifted a longstanding requirement that mandated more than half of those who would be unionized to vote in favor of a union. Now, under Obama’s new rules, a specialized company or part of a company can be unionized by a majority of only those who show up to vote.

The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) has tried to unionize Delta Airlines flight attendants several times in the past decade. The AFA even got unionization to a vote three times but failed on each attempt because the unions couldn’t get enough workers to vote in favor of unionizing. The Obama administration was able to ease those union election accountability requirements, in part, by placing two political appointees to the National Mediation Board: Linda Puchala, the former president of a flight attendants’ union similar to the AFA, and Harry Hoglander, an active member of the Airline Pilots Association union.

Gingrey’s staff told The Daily Caller that the National Mediation Board isn’t fair and clearly has a pro-union agenda because two of its three non-elected members, who make decisions with enormous impact throughout several industries, have advocated on behalf of unions before. The one minority member of the board, Elizabeth Dougherty, a President George W. Bush appointee, was excluded from the meetings during which Hoglander and Puchala discussed changing the rules. Also, Gingrey’s staff said the board’s new rules instituted after Obama took office don’t include a union decertification process, a formal way to get rid of a union if employees no longer want one.

Rick Manning from Americans for Limited Government said he thinks the new election rules are another example of an attempt by Obama’s DOL to abet union growth.

“It is unconscionable to change election rules that have stood our nation well for more than 70 years, merely to increase the probability that Big Labor will succeed in unionizing a targeted company,” Manning said in an e-mail to TheDC.

Even with the loosened unionization election requirements, though, the AFA was not able to unionize Delta’s employees in an election a few months ago. The AFA is saying Delta interfered in the unionization elections and has filed complaints against the company for having encouraged its workers to vote, which the AFA says is a biased maneuver to prevent unionization. But Delta says it had to tell workers about the rule change because many of them would otherwise believe the rules remained the same from the last election, when abstaining from voting meant voting “no.”

If that dispute gets a hearing, it will be none other than the National Mediation Board, the same group of pro-union political appointees that lifted the union election restrictions in the first place, that hears it. The International Association of Machinists (IAM), which tried and failed to unionize several other groups of Delta employees, joined on to the AFA’s complaints.

Delta Airlines has said it did no wrong in those elections, and that this is the third time its flight attendants officially rejected unionization.

“We believe the AFA’s and IAM’s claims are without merit,” Gina Laughlin, a Delta Airlines spokeswoman, told TheDC. “If the National Mediation Board follows its past precedents, these claims will be dismissed.”

Laughlin said Delta’s employees want this to go away as soon as possible, too, but they aren’t expecting any speedy resolution.

Mark Clarke, a Delta flight attendant for almost 28 years who voted against unionization in all three elections in the past decade, told TheDC that, on both sides, they want this to end.

“We’re ready for the NMB to quit playing games with the rules,” Clarke said in a phone interview. “What has happened every time is they’ll lose an election, they’ll go back and change the rules until they get the results that they want.”

Clarke thinks the government and the unions are teaming up against the flight attendants. He doesn’t think the government can be a fair arbiter of this case, either, and is almost certain the National Mediation Board will give the AFA the outcome it wants.

“I believe this outcome will be that the NMB will find interference because this board has done everything that the AFA has asked them to do,” Clarke said. “We’re going to end up dragging our feet for several months and then have to vote again.”

Clarke is upset with how the government is pandering to the unions, and it has damaged his view of the Democratic Party, which he normally supports.

“My party affiliation typically leans towards the Democrats but on this I disagree with them,” Clarke said. “This is absolutely payback to the unions. What this war has done is reprehensible, basically.”

The reasoning behind placing tougher union election restrictions on certain industries, like airlines, is because a strike in one city could affect the entire country’s airline traffic as it is dependent on the link between several different geographical points. A local miners or firefighters strike, on the other hand, would only shut down those operations in a specific area.