WASHINGTON — The UTU and 17 other transportation labor organizations urged Congress Jan. 30 to pass a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization without making what they called “drastic and unnecessary changes to the Railway Labor Act.”

Historically, any changes to the Railway Labor Act have been jointly agreed to by labor and management – a primary reason the law has been so effective in ensuring uninterrupted commerce and keeping paychecks flowing in the airline and railroad industries.

In fact, when the Railway Labor Act was passed by Congress in 1926, it was the product of joint agreement by labor and management – and that collaboration has continued since.

In this instance, the House Republican leadership is seeking to use FAA reauthorization as a vehicle to overturn a National Mediation Board (NMB) ruling that made union-representation elections in the airline and railroad industry conform to the rules of virtually every other election tally in America.

The House Republican leadership, at the instigation of airline management, is seeking to overturn that National Mediation Board ruling that updated the agency’s union-representation voting rule. Previously, those not casting a ballot in a representation election were considered to have cast a “no” ballot. Nowhere else in American society does such a rule exist.

The NMB changed the rule to provide for a majority vote of those actually voting in a union representation election. That change was affirmed by a federal appeals court after airline carriers challenged it in court. Failing in court, the carriers turned to their friends in the House.

The transportation labor organizations told Congress in their joint statement:

“A rewrite of long-standing labor law deserves proper and due consideration through the normal deliberative process. Acting otherwise directly conflicts with the non-partisan recommendations of the 1994 report of the Dunlop Commission on the Future of Worker-Management negotiations. Unilaterally changing that law without labor’s input and without due deliberation threatens to unravel its carefully balanced goals of labor stability and uninterrupted commerce.

“Rewarding the House Republican leadership’s desire to rewrite decades of long-standing labor law in a flash by inserting an unrelated and controversial labor provision in a much needed aviation safety and security bill, without notice, hearing or debate, sets an extremely dangerous precedent.

“We urge the Senate to delete the provision of the bill that would amend the RLA and pass the clean FAA reauthorization that all concerned recognize this country sorely needs and supports.”

Barrows

WASHINGTON – A former secretary-treasurer of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen – Walt Barrows – is the new labor member of the Railroad Retirement Board following his Senate confirmation Sept. 27. He succeeds Butch Speakman, who chose to retire.

Barrows began his railroad career as a signalman with Norfolk & Western Railway (now part of Norfolk Southern) in 1974. Since 2004 – while holding his signalmen post — he has been the labor trustee of the National Railroad Retirement Investment Trust, a position earlier held by former UTU General Secretary and Treasurer Dan Johnson.

Separately, Democrat Harry Hoglander and Republican Thomas Beck are awaiting Senate action on their White House nominations to the National Mediation Board (NMB).

Hoglander, educated as an attorney, was nominated to a fourth three-year term to expire in June 2014. Before joining the NMB, he was a legislative aide to Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), where he focused on aviation and rail issues. Previously, Hoglander retired as an Air Force fighter pilot, a Trans World Airlines pilot and executive vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association.

Beck, who would succeed Republican Elizabeth Dougherty (for a three-year term expiring in 2013), currently is a Senate-confirmed member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), which administers labor-management relations for non-Postal Service federal employees. Previously, he was an attorney practicing labor and employment law. Beck also teaches, on a part-time basis, courses in legislation and public policy at George Mason University in Virginia.

The third member of the NMB is Democrat Linda Puchala, who was confirmed to her first three-year term in May 2009.

NMB logo; National Mediation Board WASHINGTON – Most Railway Labor Act Section 3 arbitration cases will grind to a halt Sept. 30 if Congress does not pass a new appropriation for the National Mediation Board.

The federal government’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30 and Congress has not passed an appropriation to fund NMB-financed arbitrations for the 2012 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The NMB  has thus advised arbitrators that they “cannot engage in any Section 3 work for fiscal year 2012 [beginning Oct. 1] until you have received a work order for fiscal year 2012, and that order has been signed and returned to the NMB.

“As a result, arbitrators do not have the authority to schedule any hearings for fiscal Year 2012. All arbitrators and parties are notified that no funds will be authorized for travel for the month of October,” said the NMB.

In the absence of a fiscal year 2012 appropriation, Congress could still pass – prior to Sept. 30 — what is known as a “continuing resolution,” which would extend fiscal year 2011 funding into fiscal year 2012. If that occurs, the NMB said it “will immediately issue work orders to arbitrators.”

The NMB said it “will make every effort to authorize some days that may be utilized for decisions in accordance with the NMB’s policy for the past five fiscal years. However, these authorizations will be made with minimal advance notice. These days may be used for hearing cases if no travel is involved (either because the parties travel to the neutral, or because the case is heard using the NMB’s online technology). The Anti-Deficiency Act precludes arbitrators from hearing cases for free,” said the NMB.

Questions should be directed to Darrell Dancer at the NMB at (202) 692-5055.

WASHINGTON — Democrat Harry Hoglander has been nominated by President Obama for a fourth three-year term — this one to expire in June 2014 — on the three-member National Mediation Board, which administers the Railway Labor Act.

Earlier this year, Obama nominated Republican Thomas M. Beck to succeeded Republican Elizabeth Dougherty for a term expiring in June 2013.

It is expected the two nominations will move forward in tandem for Senate confirmation.

Democrat Linda Puchela is the third member of the NMB, serving a term that expires in June 2012.

Prior to Senate confirmation to his first term in 2002, Hoglander was a legislative aide to Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.), where he focused on aviation and rail issues. Previously, Hoglander was a Trans World Airlines pilot and executive vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association. Educated as an attorney, Hoglander was a U.S. Air Force fighter pilot and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Beck, an attorney, has been serving as a Senate-confirmed member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority, which administers labor-management relations for non-Postal Service federal employees. Previously, Beck practiced labor law in the private sector and was a part-time professor of public policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va.

UTU General Chairperson Rich Draskovich (Union Pacific, GO 953) has been recognized by the National Mediation Board (NMB) for “a special achievement” in helping reduce the agency’s backlog of rail-labor grievances.
In presenting the award, NMB Chairman Harry Hoglander said Draskovich, on behalf of the UTU, and in concert with Union Pacific and CSX, provided “essential support, leadership, dedication and expertise” in helping the NMB launch a program to attract a diversified pool of 91 new rail arbitrators.
Draskovich served as a classroom instructor at a CSX facility and on three multi-facility tours of Union Pacific across Nebraska, explaining rail operations and craft assignments and skills to more than 255 potential new arbitrators who responded to a recruitment drive by the NMB.
The addition of qualified rail arbitrators is intended to speed further the determination of grievances that reach public law boards and special boards of adjustment created under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.
NMB arbitrators have been “overloaded with cases in recent years, and justice delayed is justice denied,” Hoglander said.
To assure new arbitrators understand the rail industry and rail culture, Draskovich helped to develop and initiate the training program.
Included in the training was the presentation of 33 examples of discipline and rules violations that typically might be heard by a railroad arbitrator.
In recent years, the NMB has reduced the backlog of grievances from more than 5,500 to around 300, with some 2,700 new cases being filed annually.
 

Rich Draskovich, right, with NMB Chairman Harry Hoglander

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/

BOSTON — A coalition of Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad (MBCR) unions, including those representing clerks, carmen, supervisors, signalmen and shopcraft workers, have been released by the National Mediation Board (NMB) from mediation.

The release paves the way for appointment of a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to make settlement recommendations for a wage, benefits and work-rules contract settlement under provisions of the Railway Labor Act.

The coalition unions rejected an NMB offer of binding arbitration.

The UTU and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen are negotiating separately with the MBCR and are not included in the release. BLET members previously failed to ratify a tentative agreement, and the BLET and MBCR returned to the bargaining table.

Under special commuter railroad provisions of the RLA, a second PEB is possible if the sides cannot accept the recommendations of the first PEB. Self-help is not permitted until 30 days after a second PEB (should it be appointed) has made its recommendations.

(Note that Amtrak and freight railroads are governed by another provision of the RLA that provides for just a single PEB.)

WASHINGTON — Two Obama administration nominations of Republicans to key transportation regulatory positions — one to the National Mediation Board; the other to the Surface Transportation Board — were returned to the White House by the Senate this week without confirmation action and will have to be resubmitted to the Senate in the new Congress.

Republican Thomas M. Beck had been nominated by the president to the three-member NMB, for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2013; and Republican Ann D. Begeman had been nominated to the three-member Surface Transportation Board for a term expiring Dec. 31, 2015. Both agencies have Democratic majorities.

Under rules of the Senate, nominations not confirmed during the session during which they are made must be returned to the White House. The president may nominate them again in 2011, or choose new nominees. There is no indication Beck or Begeman will not be renominated or that the Senate would not confirm they if renominated.

Owing to a busy Senate calendar and the late timing of both nominations, neither was afforded a hearing before a Senate committee — Beck before the Health, Education & Labor Committee; Begeman before the Commerce Committee — an interim step prior to a Senate floor vote on confirmation.

Beck was nominated to succeed Republican Elizabeth Dougherty on the NMB. Dougherty’s term expired June 30, but under NMB rules she may continue serving indefinitely until a successor is confirmed. Since Oct. 2, Beck has been serving as a Senate-confirmed member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). The FLRA administers labor-management relations for non-Postal Service federal employees.

Previously, Beck was a partner in the law firm of Jones Day, practicing labor and employment law. He is a 1992 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School. Beck also is a part-time professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he teaches courses on legislation and public policy.

The other two members of the NMB are Democrats — Chairman Harry Hoglander, who is serving his third term, and Linda Puchala, who was confirmed to her first term in May 2009

Begeman was nominated to succeed Republican Chip Nottingham on the STB. Nottingham’s term expires Dec. 31, but under STB rules he may continue serving until a successor is confirmed, but no later than Dec. 31, 2011. Begeman is a long-time aide to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and most recently has been an aide to the Senate Commerce Committee.

The other two members of the STB are Democrats — Chairman Dan Elliott, who is serving his first term; and Frank Mulvey, who is serving his second term.

The STB has regulatory authority over railroad mergers and labor protection for rail employees adversely affected by mergers, line sales and leases, and line abandonments. The agency also regulates railroad freight rates.

WASHINGTON – President Obama has nominated Republican Thomas M. Beck, an attorney, to succeed Republican Elizabeth Dougherty on the three-member National Mediation Board.

The nomination requires Senate confirmation, and a confirmation hearing before the Senate Labor Committee has yet to be scheduled.

Since October 2, Beck has been serving as a Senate-confirmed member of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) for a term that expired July 1. The FLRA administers labor-management relations for non-Postal Service federal employees.

As with the NMB, members of the FLRA may continue serving until a successor has been confirmed by the Senate. Dougherty’s term at the NMB expired June 30.

Previously, Beck was a partner in the law firm of Jones Day, practicing labor and employment law. He is a 1992 graduate of the University of Virginia Law School. Beck also is a part-time professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., where he teaches courses on legislation and public policy.

The other two members of the NMB are Democrats – Chairman Harry Hoglander, who is serving his third term on the NMB, and Linda Puchala, who was confirmed to her first term on the NMB in May 2009.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

The National Mediation Board, which administers the Railway Labor Act, proposes changing the rules by which rail and airline employees choose labor union representation. The UTU supports the change.

The NMB rules for representation elections now require a majority of employees eligible to vote actually cast a ballot favoring a union before that union is certified as the bargaining agent. Those not voting are assumed to have cast a “no” ballot.

By contrast, the National Labor Relations Board, which administers labor law affecting the bus industry, certifies representation elections based on results of those actually voting — the universal standard in democratic elections.

The UTU submitted comments supporting the change. A final ruling by the NMB may be issued this month.

You might wonder why the NMB has been out of sync with universal democratic voting procedures. The answer is circumstances were markedly different when the rule was first imposed during the 1930s.

Back then, the NMB was concerned with company unions, racial discrimination, conflict among competing unions, lower reading comprehension among union members, primitive means of communication, and even communist agitators.

Two-thirds of the NMB workload in the 1930s involved purging outlawed company unions, which were controlled and financed by management. Requiring a majority of those eligible to vote (as opposed to a majority of those voting) more conclusively communicated to management an employee desire for an independent labor union.

African-American employees often were denied representation in company unions, and were discriminated against in hiring, assignments and discipline. Many railroads back then tried to deny ballots to African-American employees. By certifying representation elections based on the majority of those eligible to vote, the NMB advanced racial democracy.

In that earlier era, dozens of labor unions were in competition for representation, as it was not until 1954 that the AFL-CIO constitution prohibited “raiding” by its member unions. Thus, the NMB sought to “get it right” in determining which union the majority of employees favored.

During the 1930s, only 30 percent of workers held high school diplomas (versus more than 70 percent today), and voting was by mail ballot with detailed written instructions.

Communication also was primitive. This was no small concern, as under the Railway Labor Act, representation is system-wide. It may be hard to believe in this era of cell phones, but during the 1930s, it took up to five AT&T operators to complete long-distance calls, which cost up to $33 in current dollars. By requiring a majority of eligible employees vote in favor of representation, the procedure promoted a more informed vote as union supporters had incentive to educate members on each individual property and encourage them to vote.

Finally, during the 1930s, communist agitators advocated worker militancy. The NMB election procedures of that era sought to prevent a handful of agitators from rigging elections.

Circumstances have, indeed, changed. And that is why the NMB now proposes to bring its 75-year-old representation election voting procedures in sync with the universal rule of democratic elections.

Meanwhile, Congress currently has before it the Employee Free Choice Act, which affects our bus members covered under the National Labor Relations Act. Employers and their friends in Congress have so far blocked passage of that law.

The Employee Free Choice Act would do three things to level the playing field for employees and employers.

It would strengthen penalties against companies that illegally coerce employees from expressing support for union representation; it would require a neutral third party impose a contract when a company refuses to negotiate in good faith; and it would require an employer to recognize a union immediately if a majority of employees sign union-authorization cards.

The UTU supports passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.