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Unions That Won’t Take 'No' for an Answer

Posted By James Sherk On December 13, 2010 @ 3:00 pm In Economics | Comments Disabled

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Part of living in a democracy involves accepting election results. Americans know to move on when their side loses. Neither Republicans nor Democrats would suggest redoing the vote until their side won.

Someone should tell that to the union movement. The Obama Administration recently made it easier to organize Delta airlines. Delta’s employees nonetheless voted the union down. Instead of accepting defeat, the union movement is now asking for a re-vote [2]. They will not take “no” for an answer.

The saga began when non-union Delta acquired unionized Northwest airlines in 2008. The International Association of Machinists, the Association of Flight Attendants, and other unions launched a campaign to organize the newly merged workforce.

During this campaign they sent a private letter to the National Mediation Board (the agency that oversees union elections in airlines) asking it to overhaul the election procedures to make it easier for them to win.

Under the Railway Labor Act (which also covers airlines), unions had to win the support of a majority of employees. Any worker who does not vote effectively counts as a “no”—a union must have the support of a majority of all workers and not just those who show up to vote.

There was a good reason the law set a higher bar for airline unions to clear. The Railway Labor Act effectively bars workers from getting rid of a union. Once they unionize, they cannot get out. So unions had to demonstrate active support from a majority of all workers—a minority of workers could not vote the majority permanently into a union.

But union leaders want workers to unionize, period. They do not object to workers being forced into a union they cannot get out of. They simply want more members paying more union dues.

So the unions asked the Obama Administration to overturn 75 years of precedent and redefine a union win as the support of a majority of voters. The Administration swiftly complied. The unions withdrew their earlier requests for elections and re-filed them under the new rules.

Despite the election rules being rigged in their favor, the unions still lost. Starting with 52 percent of flight attendants in early November and ending with 70 percent of gate and ticket counter agents in December, every group of Delta employees voted to stay nonunion. Workers heard the union pitch and voted no.

They had good reason to. Nonunion Delta employees felt that their company treated them well. They also earned 10 to 15 percent more than their unionized colleagues at Northwest did. Why pay union dues to get little in return?

However, the union movement very much wants to collect those dues. So instead of accepting defeat, they have asked the Obama Administration to order a re-vote.

The unions contend that the company so greatly interfered in the election that it does not truly reflect employees’ desires. Delta’s alleged sins? It discussed the downsides of organizing with its employees and allowed them to vote online from company computers.

The charges are laughable, but the unions are very serious about getting a mulligan. The Obama Administration has the power to use such flimsy charges as the grounds for holding a new vote. They can keep holding re-votes until they get the result they like. If the Administration’s past behavior provides any guidance, then the unions will get what they want.

That is great for the union movement but not for Delta’s employees. As long as the unions’ appeals drag on, Delta cannot integrate its workforces. Ironically, this means the former Northwest employees will stay on their lower union-negotiated pay scales.

Unions claim to represent American workers. They should learn to take “no” for an answer.


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URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2010/12/13/unions-that-won%e2%80%99t-take-no-for-an-answer/

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[1] Image: http://www.foundry.org/wp-content/uploads/strike.jpg

[2] the union movement is now asking for a re-vote: http://dailycaller.com/2010/12/13/transportation-union-has-delta-squarely-in-its-sights/

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