Flight attendants played a crucial role in forcing an end to the government shutdown. Now the survival of their unions is being quietly threatened by Trump appointees on the National Mediation Board (NMB), an independent agency that was established in 1934 to resolve labor-management disputes in the airline and railroad industries.
Since November 2017, the three-member panel that oversees the NMB has been controlled by Republicans, as the Senate confirmed both of Trump’s nominees, Gerald W. Fauth III and Kyle Fortson. Trump was also required to nominate one Democrat by law and he chose Linda Puchala, an Obama appointee who has served on the NMB since 2009.
The board is currently targeting the Railway Labor Act (RLA). That’s a federal law that was established in 1926 to govern labor disputes in the railroad industry and give workers the right to engage in collective bargaining. Although originally created specifically for railroad workers, it was extended to cover the airline industry in 1936. According to the RLA, any employee who wants to decertify their union must first get signatures from half of the workforce. After the signatures have been obtained, a “straw man” is established to run against the union. Workers then get to vote either for the union, for the straw man, or for no representation at all. The rule is designed to give workers the option to vote for new representation if they have an issue with the direction of the union, as opposed to getting rid of the union altogether.
In a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) issued on January 31, Fauth and Fortson made it clear that they’re seeking to create a “straightforward election process” and get rid of the strawman rule. Under the new criteria, workers would only be able to vote for the union, vote for no union or write in a vote. This would effectively make it much easier for a worker to decertify their union. Under the…