In the next several days, the state-level fight between Democrats and Republicans over unions will go federal. House Republicans want to re-establish old rules which say that when aviation or rail workers don’t vote in unionization elections, they’re treated as having voted against unionization. And now on of the nation’s largest airlines is getting involved in the fight.
The push is reflected in language in the House’s FAA re-authorization bill. In an earlier stage of the legislative fight, Democrats, joined by a few Republicans, nearly succeeded in getting the provision stripped. Now, sources say, a similar fight is likely to play out on the House floor, and anti-union employees at Delta Airlines are preparing to fly to Washington to join the fight.
In a message to its members obtained by TPM, the group “No Way AFA” — a coalition of Delta employees who want to deliberalize union rights — frames the fight this way. (AFA is the Association of Flight Attendants, the flight attendants union.)
“Title IX of the House FAA Reauthorization bill repeals the National Mediation Board’s 2010 elections rule change, which permits a minority of employees at airlines and railroads to determine whether or not the majority will be represented by unions,” the message reads. “[I]t is anticipated that an amendment will be offered on the House floor to strike these provisions from the bill and allow the NMB’s modified rule to stay in place.”
According to the note, “Delta strongly supports the bill” as currently written.
Members are encouraged to participate in a fly-in to Washington, D.C., to lobby their congressmen, for which “positive space travel” — free travel for airline employees — is permitted.
A Delta spokesperson said No Way AFA operates separately from the company itself, but that the company “allow[s] employees to travel positive space to D.C. when supporting legislative efforts that the company supports.”
By contrast, Delta policy requires employees to fly standby for leisure and personal travel, suggesting that the “positive space” standard for the fly-in could squeeze out seating space for regular travelers.
The spokesperson says Delta avoids such displacement. “[W]e manage employee travel to avoid displacing revenue customers. We block such travel where limited seats are available and displace ourselves for revenue customers whenever necessary.”
“[A]s far as the company cooperating with our group, they’re not specifically,” said No Way AFA leader Mathew Palmer in an email to me. “[I]t’s more that were cooperating with them.”
In other words, it’s no secret that Delta supports the action.
The last-minute push suggests the vote to strip the anti-union provision will be a close one. Several Republicans are expected to side with Democrats on the vote, which is could occur next week or the week after that. The Senate’s version of the FAA bill does not contain this language.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.