Friendly Skies for Big Labor?

Published: May 17, 2011

Oversight Reviews Federal Board’s Reversal of 75 year-old Rule in Labor Elections

WASHINGTON– Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., chairman of the oversight subcommittee on labor policy, are concerned labor union political influence may have compromised independence of the group charged with mediating airline labor disputes.

In a letter to National Mediation Board (NMB) Chairman Harry Hoglander sent May 17th, Issa and Ross wrote that they “are particularly troubled by evidence tending to show that this change in the rule was the result of a predetermined effort to advance a partisan policy agenda.”

“For 75 years, the ‘majority’ rule has ensured that workers would have a fair say in whether or not they would unionize, or which union would represent them,” said Chairman Ross. “The chain of events suggests that a key decision was purposefully delayed until pro-union board members could be in place to vote for a reversal of the majority rule.”

“The National Mediation Board was established to keep our nation’s airlines and railroads functioning by acting as a fair third party in business-labor relations,” said Chairman Issa. “That trust, however, is not a free ticket to conduct a political end run around due process.”

In late 2008, Delta Air Lines acquired Northwest Airlines. Delta flight attendants were not represented by a union, and Northwest flight attendants were represented by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). The AFA ultimately lost the representation election because it could not obtain a yes vote majority vote of the “craft or class” of flight attendant employees.

A June 2010 decision of the NMB, an independent agency that according to their website “performs a central role in facilitating harmonious labor-management relations within two of the nation’s key transportation modes–the railroads and airlines” altered the 75-year old “majority rule” which held that only a majority of employees could affirmatively select a union for their representation. NMB had previously rejected an identical request from the AFA after the union failed to be selected by Delta employees earlier in 2008.

The letter can be read in its entirety here at


Related Documents

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Letter to NMB Document