Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Log In

White House Proposes Lowering Barriers to Rail, Airline Unionizing

2:03 PM EDT on May 10, 2010

Rail and airline employees would face lowered barriers to unionizing under a new rule announced today by the Obama administration that would put union elections for workers in both modes of transportation on an equal footing with other industries.

rail_network_train_workers_us_auto_industry_jobs_image.jpgRail workers would have an easier path to unionizing under the new rule. (Photo: TreeHugger)

The rule, approved on a 2-1 vote by the National Mediation Board (NMB), would end a decades-old practice of counting employees who abstain or do not vote in union elections as "no" votes, thus making the process of organizing workers more difficult.

The Senate labor committee's chairman, Tom Harkin (D-IA), hailed the unionizing shift in a statement. “NMB’s long
overdue rule change ensures that all American workers will have a voice
in the workplace and a right to fair wages and work
conditions," said Harkin, who had joined more than three dozen fellow senators in endorsing the new rule in December.

In practice, the NMB's move is more likely to affect airlines than railroads, where the majority of workers are already represented by labor unions. Indeed, the Air Transport Association -- which represents the interests of leading domestic airlines -- is already moving ahead with a legal challenge to the new rule, the Associated Press reported today.

Nonetheless, surface transportation labor interests joined Harkin in welcoming the NMB announcement, published in today's Federal Register. James Little, president of the Transport Workers Union (TWU), said in a statement that "today's decision was long overdue" and would spur his group to new organizing drives.

"TWU lost elections in the past
because many supposed voters were on leave or in the hospital or
unreachable – every non-vote was counted against our union," Little said.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Tuesday’s Headlines Triple the Fun

Amtrak is staffing up and ready to spend the $66 billion it received from the bipartisan federal infrastructure law.

September 26, 2023

Pols: Congress Must Bolster Sustainable Commutes to Reduce Carbon and Congestion

The feds should bolster sustainable commuting modes and transportation demand management strategies.

September 26, 2023

Monday’s Headlines Are All About Pete

From trying to avert a government shutdown to promoting rail safety, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is in the midst of a busy week.

September 25, 2023

What is the Life of a Dead Pedestrian Worth?

A Seattle police officer sparked outrage when he joked that the death of pedestrian Jaahnavi Kandula might be settled for as little as $11,000. Some families get even less.

September 25, 2023

Why Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled Matters

“Our job now is to prioritize solutions that mitigate the impacts of climate change while equitably improving quality of life. To do so we need to rethink how we build so Californians can drive less."

September 22, 2023
See all posts