STB_logo Congress over the weekend sent to President Obama for his signature a two-month extension of federal funding of highway and transit programs. The surface transportation law known as MAP-21 was set to expire May 31.

The House passed its bill — sponsored by Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Bill Shuster (R-PA.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — a week ago, while the Senate passed the bill on Saturday. 

Although pleased that the legislation will prevent a shutdown of summer projects, some transportation industry leaders expressed frustration and disappointment that Congress passed another short-term extension of the Highway Trust Fund.

Read more from Progressive Railroading.

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Risch

Congressional elections do matter. Actions of Congress can make a big difference when it comes to our job security, our wages, our fringe benefits, our retirement and safety in our workplace.

In this issue of the SMART Transportation Division News are our official endorsements for the Nov. 4 election. These endorsements are based on recommendations from our state legislative boards which, with our national office, reviewed the voting records of incumbent lawmakers and conducted thorough interviews with new candidates seeking national office.

Our constitution requires that we make these endorsements and we take this obligation seriously. A full listing of how Congressional legislators voted on issues important to our members can be found on the Transportation Division website at www.utu.org by clicking on the 2014 Voter Information tile at the bottom right corner of the homepage.

The upcoming session of Congress will be a busy one. We will be working to pass legislation requiring a minimum of two persons – a certified conductor and a certified engineer – working on all trains. One current bill, Senate Bill S. 2784 – the Rail Safety Improvement Act, is reported on page 1 of this publication.

We will be working to see that our transit systems and Amtrak receive the funding they so desperately need. Likewise, we will be working to make sure that the National Mediation Board receives the funding it needs to resolve disputes in the workplace in a timely manner. We will be working with our Sheet Metal brothers and sisters on issues important to the construction industry and to ensure that the Essential Air Service program is properly funded.

Electing labor-friendly legislators is the key to our success. Our Legislative Department can be the best in the business, but if this election produces a Congress in which a majority of its members don’t even believe in the fundamental rights of workers, our efforts to protect our members’ jobs, paychecks, benefits, retirement income and workplace safety will be much harder.

We all have our personal views about life and the government. I understand that we have members that are Democrats, Republicans, independents, Tea Party Libertarians, Green Party environmentalists and just about every flavor out there. While I appreciate our diversity, I urge you to take into consideration the endorsements in this newspaper when you cast your ballot.

These endorsements were based on issues like support for two-person train crews, Amtrak, the coal industry, mass transportation funding, and other work-related issues.

Our endorsed incumbents have supported our work-related issues and the endorsed candidates have pledged to do so.

Neither I nor anyone else in our union tells anyone “how to vote.” What we do is fulfill our constitutional responsibility to endorse those that we believe will support us once they’re elected. To do anything less would be shirking our constitutional responsibility.

Come Nov. 4, no matter whom you choose to vote for…choose to vote. If your state has early or absentee voting, take advantage of this opportunity, especially if you work a road job or an extra-board.

I look forward to serving each of you as your National Legislative Director and pledge to do my best. That being said, our legislative department’s odds of success will be much better if you send folks to Congress that support our issues.

John Risch

National Legislative Director
SMART Transportation Division

Below are Congressional scorecards compiled by the SMART Transportation Division Legislative Office. See how your legislators voted on the issue affecting your job.

House of Representatives
Senate

Click here for the SMART Transportation Division’s congressional endorsements as determined by its state legislative boards and National Legislative Office.

Stem

“Every Amtrak employee should be placed in a productive position that supports the needs of customer service and managed growth of operations,” UTU National Legislative Director James Stem told Congress Nov. 28.

“Amtrak operating crews are among the most productive workers in that system and our members are ready and eager to work,” he said in testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “Assign us a train and provide for instructions and where to go, and our members will show up for duty and get Amtrak passengers to their destination safely and on time. We in labor are Amtrak’s partners.”

Stem praised Amtrak’s Next Generation Plan that “provides a road map for improved service and identifies the funding requirements. But for us to succeed, Congress must provide Amtrak with consistent and predicable multi-year funding for modernization and capacity upgrades. Amtrak’s Next Generation Plan for the Northeast Corridor will cut the transit time in half between Washington, D.C.’s Union Station and New York’s Penn Station, as well as between New York and Boston.

“What Amtrak really needs is dramatic increases in capital investments,” Stem said. “Capital spending to increase speeds and upgrade Amtrak’s infrastructure is the ticket to transporting American’s in a cost effective and energy efficient manner.”

Stem reminded lawmakers that “Amtrak also plays a central role in financing Railroad Retirement, which is a self-funding pension, unemployment and disability benefit program that covers almost one million active and retired railroad workers. Changes in the financial treatment of Amtrak, such as significant funding cuts or passenger rail privatization, could jeopardize the solvency of the system.

“Americans want a national intercity rail passenger network, and Amtrak is uniquely able to fill that need. Highways and commercial aviation will not alone meet the nation’s future passenger transportation needs and demands. The coordination of air and rail passenger services should be mandated to free more air slots and provide timely rail services for shorter travel distances.”

Stem also made clear labor’s “full support for the expansion of our freight rail capacity. Amtrak and our freight railroads work together as partners and both have capacity needs that can be mutual goals. We support the expansion of Amtrak services and understand that this expansion must also address the capacity needs of our freight rail partners.”

UTU National Legislative Director James Stem, right, testifies before the House Transportation and
Infrastructure Committee Nov. 28 with Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman, left, and Amtrak
Inspector General Theodore Alves.

U.S. Capitol Building; Capitol Building; Washington D.C. Public transportation funding, transportation jobs, workplace safety, Railroad Retirement and Medicare are under a mean-spirited and sustained attack by congressional conservatives who are trying to muscle their agenda through Congress prior to the November elections.

The UTU and Sheet Metal Workers International Association – now combined into the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) – along with other labor organizations, public interest groups, congressional Democrats and moderate Republicans are working on Capitol Hill to block these attempts, which could be devastating to working families.

UTU National Legislative Director James Stem and SMWIA Director of Governmental Affairs Jay Potesta outlined the conservatives’ agenda that has surfaced in proposed congressional transportation reauthorization and budget legislation:

* Cut $31.5 billion in federal transportation spending, which would threaten some 500,000 American jobs.

* Eliminate federal spending for Amtrak and expansion of intercity rail-passenger service and high-speed rail, with a direct impact on jobs associated with that service.

* Gut federal spending for the Alaska Railroad, which would force elimination of scores of train and engine workers represented by the UTU.

* Delay implementation of positive train control, which is a modern technology to reduce train accidents and save lives and limbs.

* Eliminate federal spending for expansion of local and regional transit service as Americans scramble to find alternatives to driving in the face of soaring gasoline prices. The federal spending cut would prevent the return to work of furloughed workers from budget-starved local transit systems and likely cause layoffs of still more transit workers.

* Encourage privatization of local transit systems, which would open the door for non-union operators eager to pay substandard wages and eliminate employee health care insurance and other benefits.

* Remove any requirement for shuttle-van operators, whose vehicles cross state lines, from paying even minimum wage or overtime – a proposal, which if enacted, could lead to applying that legislation to interstate transit operations.

* Eliminate Railroad Retirement Tier I benefits that exceed Social Security benefits even though railroads and rail employees pay 100 percent of those benefits through payroll taxes, with no federal funds contributing to Tier I benefits that exceed what is paid by Social Security.

* Replace direct federal spending on Medicare in favor of handing out vouchers to be used to purchase private insurance, which will undercut the viability of Medicare.

* Provide large tax breaks to millionaires and preserve tax breaks for Wall Street hedge funds that cater to the wealthy, while cutting by two-thirds federal assistance to veterans and public schools.

The UTU member-supported political action committee (PAC) is helping to fund election campaigns by labor-friendly candidates, and a labor-wide “get out the vote” drive will go door-to-door across America in support of labor-friendly candidates in advance of November elections.

In the meantime, UTU and SMWIA legislative offices will continue their education campaign on Capitol Hill, visiting congressional offices to explain the economic devastation the current conservative agenda would impose on working families.

By James Stem
UTU National Legislative Director

Congress is back from its August recess and eyes are focused on the “Super Committee” of House and Senate members charged with finding $1.5 trillion in budget cuts over the next 10 years.

Should that committee fail to agree — and that is likely — there is an automatic triggering mechanism to cut $1.5 trillion split evenly between defense and discretionary spending.  
 
We will be working to see that Amtrak, transit, essential air service, the National Labor Relations Board and the National Mediation Board are adequately funded. Our fear is all these vital entities will take some financial hit, but we will do our best to preserve funding by visiting, speaking with and educating lawmakers.

We also will continue pursuing hours-of-service technical corrections and improvements to the Family and Medical Leave Act for operating rail employees.

We thought 2011 was an “off year” concerning elections. How wrong that was. 

The assault on state workers’ rights brought legislative recalls in Wisconsin, and a big legislative referral is on tap in November in Ohio. The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and the UTU PAC are at work protecting basic rights of collective bargaining.

In August, there were recall elections of nine Wisconsin state senators — three Democrats and six Republicans — with all three Democrats easily re-elected and two of the anti-labor Republicans defeated.

The Wisconsin state senate, while still under control by Republican supporters of Gov. Scott Walker, has had the Republican majority reduced to a single seat. One of those Republicans is a moderate whom we hope will help bring reason to that chamber.  

The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund played a meaningful part in the Wisconsin elections. Wisconsin State Legislative Director Tim Deneen worked with our political consultant, Dean Mitchell, and our Washington office to ensure our members were registered to vote and were informed about the candidates’ positions. 

While we were heavily outspent by far-right anti-labor national groups, it was the votes actually cast that mattered. In the end, we showed that labor will not sit back and accept this assault on collective bargaining rights. We are very proud of the 98 percent of our active and retired members who were registered to vote in Wisconsin.

Now, it’s on to Ohio, where we intend to have 98 percent of our active and retired members and their families registered to vote.

Recall that the Ohio legislature passed Senate Bill 5 that repealed collective bargaining rights for public employees, and Gov. John Kasich signed it into law.  Fortunately, Ohio has a referral process, and that legislation is on hold and will be voted on in November.

The UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund will be working hard in Ohio to defeat this measure. Ohio State Legislative Director Glenn Newsom has been coordinating with Dean Mitchell to urge UTU members and their families to register to vote. They will be doing informational mailings about the significance of the vote. 

While we can’t raise the money anti-labor extremists can for these efforts, we can work to encourage UTU members and their families to register to vote, ensure they are informed on the issues, and that they cast ballots.

In the end, it’s not the amount of money that is spent. It’s the votes cast.

If you or a family member is not registered to vote in Ohio, please do so today.  If you need assistance, call the National Legislative Office at (202) 543-7714 for assistance. 

WASHINGTON — Two House Republicans with transportation oversight authority — House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) — want to transfer ownership of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor to the private sector as the first step toward dismantling Amtrak and privatizing rail passenger service in the U.S.

The 457-mile long Northeast Corridor — two to six-tracks wide, fully electrified and with all but a handful of highway-rail grade crossings eliminated — connects Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. It carries almost one million intercity and commuter passengers daily on more than 2,000 trains — the majority commuter trains.

Amtrak, which was created by Congress to operate money-losing intercity rail passenger service in the U.S., acquired most of the Northeast Corridor following the 1970 bankruptcy of Penn Central and other Northeast railroads that had owned it.

While Amtrak owns 363 miles of the corridor, another 94 miles of the corridor is owned by the states of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts, which similarly acquired their shares from the estate of bankrupt Penn Central.

Amtrak is responsible for operating intercity passenger trains, and providing maintenance and dispatching for other users, which include commuter agencies and freight railroads. Amtrak receives federal and state subsidies in exchange.

Mica said the transfer of ownership of the Northeast Corridor would permit the federal government to auction off train-operating and real estate development rights to the highest bidder. In 1987, President Reagan unsuccessfully proposed selling the Northeast Corridor to the highest bidder; and the George W. Bush administration had a similar objective.

Congress rejected the proposals, viewing them as attempts to destroy Amtrak and U.S. intercity rail passenger service. Among Republicans, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) have expressed opposition to any attempts at breaking up Amtrak’s national intercity rail passenger network.

Former Amtrak President David Gunn observed of a privatization proposal in 2002 that the Northeast Corridor will never be able to stand on its own financially. He said most of the overhead catenary providing electrical power between Washington, D.C. and New Haven, Conn., was erected during the 1930s and is in need of replacement. “Do you really think some company is going to come in and replace all those wires for an operation that, at best, might break even financially?” Gunn asked rhetorically.

The British-based and politically conservative Economist magazine reported in 2005 that the privatization of British Rail “has proved a disastrous failure … a catalogue of political cynicism, managerial incompetence and financial opportunism. It has cost taxpayers billions of pounds and brought rail travelers countless hours of delay.”

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) responded to the Mica proposal that Amtrak makes the Northeast region — one of the most densely populated in the U.S. — “work.” He said Amtrak was created in the first place because the private-sector could not earn a profit operating passenger trains.

Amtrak itself has been seeking private investors to help it finance proposed 220-mph high-speed rail over the Northeast Corridor. Amtrak, however, would retain care, custody and control of the corridor and continue receiving federal and state subsidies to operate passenger trains over it. Amtrak says more than 25 private investors have expressed an interest in participating with it in future high-speed rail projects.

Mica says he prefers full privatization, which is broadly seen as a backdoor attempt to destroy Amtrak and the nation’s national intercity rail passenger network.

Mica asserts his plan will hasten the development of high-speed rail on the Northeast Corridor. Currently, 65 percent of the corridor already has trains operating at between 110-mph and 150 mph, and Amtrak is the only rail passenger operator in the nation operating trains at speeds of at least 100 mph.

Aging Northeast Corridor infrastructure — including century old tunnels and track curvatures running through heavily populated areas — as well as federal safety mandates for passenger cars that are heavier than those used in Europe and Asia, have much to do with Amtrak’s inability to operate trains faster than currently are operated by Amtrak.

WASHINGTON — The vote by Congress April 15 on a budget that keeps the federal government operating through Sept. 30 contains harsh spending cuts for Amtrak, transit and high-speed rail.

Especially troubling to UTU members are the Amtrak and transit budget cuts, which could result in worker furloughs, although none have been announced.

More troubling is that additional Amtrak and transit budget cuts are probable when Congress begins working on a fiscal year 2012 budget for the 12 months beginning Oct. 1, 2011.

As for the budget bill keeping the federal government operating through Sept. 1, the cuts include:

  • Amtrak funding for the remainder of this federal fiscal year through Sept. 30 was cut by some $78 million. The fiscal year 2011 Amtrak budget is thus cut from more than $1 billion to $924 million.
  • Federal Transit Administration funding was cut by $400 million, plus an additional $280 million was cut from unobligated fiscal year 2010 funding, all of which will affect transit system capital and operating subsidies and expanded training for transit workers.
  • All funding was cut for the high-speed and intercity passenger rail program for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, and an additional $400 million in unobligated funds from the fiscal year 2010 budget were eliminated. This is an especially harsh blow to President Obama’s vision to spend $53 billion to create high-speed and higher-speed rail corridors and expand conventional passenger rail to where 80 percent of Americans would have access to passenger trains by 2035.

Among the funds lost will be the billions initially intended for high- and higher-speed rail lines in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin. As those funds had been rejected by those states and not reallocated yet to other states or Amtrak for improvements on the Northeast Corridor, the funding is now lost as part of the budget cuts.

Also lost in the budget cutting agreement were federal grants of some $50 million to help develop and implement positive train control (PTC) technology, plus some $24 million to assist with rail line relocation and improvement.

Railway Age magazine reports that the withdrawl of the $50 million for PTC asssistance “does not override or end the federal mandate for PTC by 2015, and it is in itself a small portion of the estimated cost of establishing PTC nationwide; much of the estimated $9.55 billion cost is to be sholdered by the railroads themselves.”

The House voted 260-167 and the Senate voted 81-19 to pass the budget cutting bill, President Obama said he will sign the bill into law.

WASHINGTON — The single most important action Congress and the Federal Railroad Administration can take to improve rail safety — especially in the movement of hazardous materials — is to eliminate train-crew fatigue and provide predictable start times for train crews.

That was the message delivered April 7 to the House Railroad Subcommittee by UTU National Legislative Director James Stem. The subcommittee met to learn more about rail hazmat safety.

“The unpredictable work schedules of safety critical operating employees in the railroad industry has and continues to be the root cause of the fatigue problems that have placed many releases of hazardous materials on the front pages of our newspapers,” Stem told the subcommittee.

Although the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) provides for 10 hours of undisturbed rest between work assignments, “the application is misplaced because it does nothing to improve the predictability of reporting times nor does it allow employees the opportunity to plan their rest before reporting for duty,” Stem said.

“One small improvement that will make a tremendous difference in the safety for all train operations is simply to move the required 10 hours of undisturbed rest from immediately following service to immediately preceding service,” Stem said.

“The minimum of 10 hours of notification before reporting for 12 hours or more of safety critical service will allow operating employees to get their proper rest prior to reporting for duty so they can safety and alertly operate their train while on duty.

“An even greater safety enhancement would be to assign regular start times for each crew, or at a minimum require that crews be notified before going off duty of the time they must report back for service,” he said.

Stem told the subcommittee that many railroads “have worked hard since RSIA was passed to develop new software programs to enable their operations to deny the required rest days for employees. Many employees are required to observe their only day off while laying over in a one-star hotel at the away from home terminal.

“The itemized six-and-two and seven-and-three work-rest schedules in the RSIA remain a dream for 95 percent of our freight operating employees,” Stem said.

The UTU’s national legislative director also stressed a need for more frequent track inspections. “Timely track inspections by qualified track inspectors should be conducted with a frequency directly proportional to the amount of traffic passing over a track segment,” Stem told the subcommittee.

Stem provided the subcommittee, on behalf of the UTU and its members, a list of 24 specific recommendations to reduce crew fatigue:

  1. Railroad employees covered by the hours of service law shall be provided a predictable and defined work/rest period.
  2. A 10-hour call for all unassigned road service. This provision would require the 10 hours of undisturbed rest be provided immediately prior to performing covered service instead of immediately following service.
  3. All yard service assignments with defined start times will be covered by the same provisions that now apply to passenger and commuter rail.
  4. All yardmaster assignments will be HOS-covered service under the freight employees’ rule.
  5. The FRA shall issue regulations within 12 months to require all deadhead transportation in excess of a certain number of hours to be counted as time on duty and a job start.
  6. No amount of time off-duty at the away from home terminal will reset the calendar clock of job starts, and the employee shall not be required to take mandatory rest days at the away from home terminal.
  7. 24 hours off duty at the home terminal which does not include a full calendar day will reset the calendar clock.
  8. Interim release periods require notification to the crew before going off duty. If the crew is not notified, the 10 hours uninterrupted rest will prohibit changing the service to include an interim release.
  9. There shall be a two-hour limit on limbo time per each tour of duty.
  10. There shall be assigned a minimum of 24 hours off duty at the designated home terminal in each seven-day period during which time the employee shall be unavailable for any service for the railroad. The off-duty period shall encompass a minimum of one full calendar day and the employee shall be notified not less than seven calendar days prior to the assigned off duty period.
  11. A railroad shall provide hot nutritious food 24 hours a day at the sleeping quarters when the crew is at the designated away from home terminal, and at an interim release location. If such food is not provided on a railroad’s premises, a restaurant that provides such food shall not be located more than five minutes normal walking distance from the employee’s sleeping quarters or other rest facility. Fast food establishments shall not satisfy the requirements of this subsection.
  12. A railroad shall be prohibited from providing sleeping quarters in areas where switching or humping operations are performed.
  13. Not later than 12 months after the date of enactment of this act, the FRA shall promulgate a regulation requiring whistle-board signs allocated at least 1/4 mile in advance of public highway-rail grade crossings. Provided, however, such regulation shall not apply to such crossings that are subject to a whistle ban.
  14. Under the railroad whistle-blower law, the secretary of labor shall have subpoena power to require the production of documents and/or the attendance of witnesses to give testimony.
  15. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, regulation or order, whenever Congress enacts legislation mandating that the FRA promulgate a railroad safety regulation, there shall be no requirement for a cost/benefit analysis by the FRA.
  16. During an accident/incident investigation process, upon request, a railroad shall produce event recorder information to law enforcement personnel and to the designated employee representative(s) defined under the Railway Labor Act.
  17. In an engineer or conductor decertification proceeding, if the FRA issues a final order in favor of an employee, a railroad shall be prohibited from subsequently attempting to discipline such employee for any alleged acts which may have arisen from the incident involved in the decertification proceeding.
  18. In an engineer or conductor certification or decertification proceeding the FRA shall have the authority to require the retesting of the employee, to order the employee’s reinstatement with the same seniority status the employee would be entitled to but for decertification or refusal of certification, and to grant any other or further relief that the FRA deems appropriate.
  19. All federal railroad safety laws and regulations shall be subject only to the preemption requirements set forth in the Federal Railroad Safety Act.
  20. A railroad owned or operated by a state or other governmental entity shall, as a condition of being a recipient of federal funds, agree immediately thereafter the receipt of such funds to waive any defense of sovereign immunity in a cause of action for damages brought against such railroad alleging a violation of a federal railroad safety law or regulation pursuant to title 28, 45, or 49, United States Code.
  21. No state law or regulation covering walkways for railroad employees shall be preempted or precluded until such time as the FRA promulgates a regulation which substantially subsumes the subject matter.
  22. In any claim alleging a violation of a federal railroad safety law, a settlement of such claim cannot release a cause of action, injury or death which did not exist at the time of settlement of such claim.
  23. An employee of the NTSB or the FRA who previously worked as a railroad employee has the right to return to railroad employment with all seniority retained.
  24. Amtrak shall not be liable for damages or liability, in a claim arising out of an accident or incident unless the said Corporation is negligent in causing the accident or incident.

WASHINGTON — As the House of Representatives later this week decides whether to second-guess the expert National Mediation Board, lawmakers must ponder voting for a double standard.

At issue is an NMB decision last year to make union representation elections more democratic.

The NMB reversed a decades-long practice of adding to the “no” column in airline and railroad representation elections all eligible voters who failed to cast a ballot.

Instead, the NMB ordered that airline and railroad representation elections henceforth would be decided by counting only the votes of those actually voting — a simple majority as is the case in all American democratic elections, from the local PTA to Congress to the White House.

A federal district court turned back a challenge by airlines to that new NMB policy, deferring to the expertise of the NMB and its decision to treat representation elections for airlines and railroads in the same manner that democratic elections for Congress and other elective offices are determined.

Yet some in Congress want to legislate a turn-back — a turn-back that, if applied to congressional elections, would have resulted in the defeat of every member of Congress who won an election in 2010.

As a study by the Communications Workers of America revealed, not a single congressional lawmaker would have won an election in 2010 had those not voting been considered to have voted against the candidate.

Clearly, the efforts of those lawmakers wanting to second-guess the NMB and trash democratic principles in representation elections is nothing more than a union-busting measure.

Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.) unmasked the union-busting agenda in a statement to her fellow House members:

“Before I came to Congress, I spent eight years as Michigan’s secretary of state. In that job, one of my prime responsibilities was to serve as my state’s chief elections officer. I’d like to think I know a little something about conducting free, open and fair elections,” Miller said.

“Each of us who has the honor to serve in this House does so with the consent of those we serve in free elections. All we have to do is win this privilege is receive more votes than our opponent. That is the fundamental caveat of our democracy, and how we conduct elections. Why should a union election be any different?” she asked her fellow House members.

To help block this latest union-busting initiative, call or email your House member and politely urge them to oppose the provision in a Federal Aviation Administration authorization bill that would legislate an undemocratic process for union representation elections in the airline and railroad industries.

Go to www.utu.org and click on “Washington” in the red tile box on the top. Then scroll down and click on “Contacting the Congress.” Insert your home address, click “Submit It” and then click on the name of your representative for their phone number and email address.

Your help is needed, as will be explained in the following article.

Imagine an election for Congress where the number of eligible voters NOT voting is added to the vote total of the candidate receiving the fewest actual votes, thereby making the election’s loser actually the winner.

As confusing and foolish as that sounds, it is precisely what some in Congress want to happen with airline and railroad union representation elections conducted by the National Mediation Board.

As one cannot assume that those NOT voting in a congressional election would have voted against the winner, Congress cannot assume that those NOT voting in a union-representation election would have voted against the union.

As the winner of congressional elections is determined by those actually voting, so should union representation elections be determined. Not to do so turns democratic principles on their head.

And this leads us to another election — an election on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives next week in which House lawmakers will consider legislation to tilt the scales against airline and railroad unions.

The bill, H.R. 658, has a provision specific to airline and railroad representation elections. It requires that the number of eligible voters who do NOT vote be considered to have voted AGAINST union representation. That’s union busting, pure and simple.

An amendment will be offered on the House floor to strip that provision from H.R. 658, assuring airline and railroad representation elections follow the same democratic process as elections for Congress, the White House, the local PTA, and virtually every other election in America.

UTU members and retirees can assist in gaining support for the amendment to H.R. 658 by contacting your representative and asking them to vote in favor of the amendment to H.R. 658.

To contact your House member, click on the following link, and then type in your address and zip code to receive the name and direct office phone number of your representative:

www.contactingthecongress.org/

Here is some background on why the amendment should be adopted:

  • Foremost, the amendment has nothing to do with so-called “card check,” a process whereby unions would be deemed winners of a representation election solely based on signed application cards. Airline and railroad representation elections will continue to be conducted by secret ballot.
  • The amendment assures a 2010 decision by the NMB — to modernize its representation-vote procedures — will remain intact so that airline and railroad representation elections are conducted by the same democratic procedures as every other American election.

Why did the NMB modernize its representation election procedures in 2010?

  • To assure the democratic principle that elections be decided by those actually vote.
  • Because the 75-year-old previous procedure — to demonstrate to employers that their workers overwhelmingly preferred an independent labor union to a company union controlled by management — is no longer valid given that company unions are now unlawful.
  • Because the 75-year-old previous procedure — to guard against racial discrimination and better assure access to ballots by African-American workers — is no longer valid given the subsequent enactment of civil rights laws.
  • Because substantially improved reading comprehension skills and ubiquitous methods of communication now assure workers understand the meaning of a representation election. The majority participation requirement no longer is necessary to spur “spreading of the word” and education of workers as to the issues.
  • No longer is there a credible concern that a handful of Communist agitators might use intimidation to limit voting, control the outcome and then engage in militancy.

Changed times and circumstances require that airline and railroad representation elections follow the same democratic principles as congressional and all other elections. Passage of the amendment to H.R. 658 will assure this.

Again, to contact your House member and ask them to support the amendment to H.R. 658, click on the following link, and then type in your address and zip code to receive the name and direct office phone number of your U.S. House representative:

www.contactingthecongress.org/