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.

By International President Mike Futhey

Are things better now than they were three years ago?

Have you witnessed an improvement in representation, union finances, internal procedures and management transparency since Arty Martin, Kim Thompson and I took office Jan. 1, 2008?

Here are the facts:

  • Union bank balances, after payment of expenses, improved in each successive month (with the exception of two months each year with three staff payrolls) — more than doubling since 2007.

General Secretary & Treasurer Kim Thompson aggressively cut operating costs; and UTU International officers reduced travel expenses through coordination of assignments and expanded use of electronic communications.

The UTU International’s move to smaller, more efficient headquarters space, and the addition of modern computers, will further reduce costs, while improving member services.

  • UTU Insurance Association reserves stand at $24 million as the UTUIA added policyholders and proved its products to be secure and price competitive.
  • Discipline Income Protection Plan (DIPP) reserves now exceed $8 million. Instead of the DIPP facing liquidation as it did three years ago, it now aggressively protects members by paying claims that competing plans frequently disallow.
  • Increased research, drawing on senior staff skills in finance and economics, made the UTU a more formidable presence at the bargaining table. More in-depth research into carrier finances provides credible justification for our Section 6 notices.
  • The workload of local treasurers has been cut substantially through application of Winstabs and the UTU International’s direct receipt of dues. Treasurers say that what previously took five hours to accomplish now is accomplished in one hour.
  • Organizing the unorganized brought hundreds of workers in the airline, bus, rail and transit industries into the UTU.
  • The UTU succeeded in having a bus portfolio — aimed at lobbying Congress and regulatory agencies on bus safety and driver training — added to the responsibilities of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department in Washington.
  • Not only does the UTU have a diversity program; but diversity was applied within the UTU so that every voice within the organization is heard and respected.
  • An expanded get-out-the-vote drive, using modern communication tools, is helping elect candidates to state legislatures and Congress who understand the needs of working families.

Those elected with UTU support return to seek advice from UTU state legislative directors and the UTU National Legislative Office.

The UTU Auxiliary, led by Carol Menges, works closely with the National Legislative Office assisting members and their families to register to vote and to vote on Election Day.

Increased UTU PAC contributions help elect labor-friendly candidates.

  • Since passage of the Rail Safety Improvement Act, which tightened penalties for carrier intimidation and harassment and added whistleblower protection, UTU designated legal counsel have pledged to support members each and every time a carrier violates one of the law’s provisions.
  • A UTU Rail Safety Task Force was created to supplement efforts of the UTU Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) Group and the UTU Transportation Safety Team to improve workplace safety. Results of a recent task force survey of members on fatigue, harassment and intimidation are already being reviewed by the FRA.
  • The UTU successfully partnered with Amtrak for a $300,000 federal grant for the UTU to train — by producing manuals and videos — on-board passenger-train staff in recognizing behavioral traits of terrorists and deranged individuals.

The UTU has approached the Class I railroads about expansion of the program to freight carriers. There are favorable indications that the carriers are interested.

  • Among accomplishments of the National Legislative Office was gaining an FRA requirement that, in implementing positive train control, carriers must provide separate computer screens in each cab, one for the engineer and one for the conductor, validating that two sets of eyes and ears are essential for train safety.
  • A promise was kept to yardmasters that in addition to preservation of their craft autonomy, they would continue to have a voice at the UTU International.
  • Officer training now includes additional and more needs-directed regional meetings workshops, such as training in situational awareness and for hazmat first responders.

You have become warriors through your commitment that we stand united in support of our membership.

Let the message go forth that if anybody tries to tread on us, they will be beneath our feet.