On March 12, 2020, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed an amicus brief in a United States District Court in defense of a flight attendant opposing an AFL-CIO effort to overturn a recent rule by the National Mediation Board (NMB) that streamlines the process for workers seeking to leave a union they oppose.
Staff attorneys from the Foundation filed the amicus brief for Allegiant Airlines flight attendant Steven Stoecker to uphold the NMB’s rule removing decertification election barriers. In addition, the brief was filed for the Foundation itself, which has provided free legal aid to numerous workers subject to the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which the NMB is tasked with enforcing.
In prior times, the NMB required that workers go through a complicated process to remove an unwanted union. Workers had to create and solicit support for a fake “straw man” to simply vote out the incumbent union. Under the NMB’s new and simplified rules which were established in July, workers can petition for a direct vote to decertify a union they are in opposition to by simply turning to a majority of the workers in their bargaining unit.
Stoecker made attempts from 2014 to 2016 to remove the Transport Workers Union (TWU) from its monopoly bargaining status in his workplace, but those attempts ended in failure when he lost his “straw man” election. The TWU is still the monopoly bargaining representative over his workplace.
“The National Mediation Board’s Final Rule simplifies the union selection or rejection process under the Railway Labor Act and erases nonstatutory barriers that hinder employees’ efforts to freely choose or reject a representative,” the amicus brief stated. “In response, the Plaintiffs, a group of labor unions that benefit from the complexities of the straw man decertification process, challenge the Final Rule and the Board’s statutory authority to establish it.”
Before the NMB implemented the final rule last year, workers like Stoecker were required to sign authorization cards designating an employee to be the “strawman” even though that employee had no intention to represent the unit. In the following election, the ballot options included the name of the union workers who wished to leave the union, the name of the straw man applicant, e.g., “John Smith,” the option for a write-in candidate and, the confusing option of “no union.”
Under the previous guidelines, workers who voted for either the straw man or “no union” in an attempt to remove union officials would unknowingly be splitting the vote against unionization, as the votes counted for these options were tallied separately not together. The NMB’s final rule enables workers to directly vote out union representatives, without the cumbersome rules that were previously in place.
“That union bosses are suing the National Mediation Board for adopting this common-sense reform shows they are far more concerned with maintaining their power than respecting the right of rank-and-file workers to decide whether or not they actually want to remain in union ranks,” declared National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “The Foundation has long advocated this type of change in the union decertification process. We are pleased the NMB has – as we called upon it to do in comments filed last year – finally made this commonsense reform.”
“Ultimately the Railway Labor Act has many fundamental problems that require legislative action, not the least of which is that it grants union bosses the power to have workers fired for nonpayment of union dues or fees even in states with Right to Work laws,” commented Mix. “That makes it all the more important that while we wait for more sweeping reforms, workers are not trapped in forced dues ranks simply because of the unnecessarily complex ‘straw man’ decertification process.”