NMB logo; National Mediation BoardWASHINGTON – The House and Senate agreed Feb. 6 on legislation authorizing increased future funding for new air traffic control technology and the Essential Air Service subsidy program to rural airports as part of a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Lawmakers voted to scrap an attempt by House Republicans to overturn a 2011 National Mediation Board (NMB) ruling making organizing under the Railway Labor Act comport with rules of all other elections in the U.S. 

President Obama says he will sign the bill into law.

The NMB last year revised its rule on representation elections, providing that in all representation elections under the Railway Labor Act (which also covers airline employees), only ballots from those actually voting would be counted. Previously, those not voting were considered to have voted “no” for representation. In changing its outdated 75-year-old representation election rule, the NMB said no other elections in the United States count those not voting as having voted ‘no.’

The legislation does change NMB representation rules by requiring 50 percent of eligible employees sign an authorization card (rather than 35 percent) before a representation election may be held. The UTU has long required more than 50 percent before seeking a representation election on railroad and airline properties it seeks to organize.

The legislation also requires public hearings for future NMB rulemakings, and requires Government Accountability Office audits of the NMB every two years.

While continuing the Essential Air Service subsidy program for rural airports, the legislation does cut service to some rural airports, but not those served by Great Lakes Airlines, whose crews are represented by the UTU.

The legislation provides some $13 billion for airport improvements and $38 billion for Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control operations.