Labor activists are preparing to step up their advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill ahead of a key vote on a union-busting measure later this week, according to sources familiar with their campaign.
The stepped up effort comes as anti-union activists are preparing efforts of their own, in order to make it harder for aviation and rail workers to unionize.
At issue is House legislation to renew FAA programs, which includes a provision that would reinstitute old rules governing how the National Mediation Board counts workers’ votes. Under the current system, a simple majority of those voting wins, just like in, say, the House of Representatives. If Republicans get their way, those rules will change, and workers who don’t vote will be tallied as having voted “no.”
To illustrate the unfairness of that structure, the Communication Workers of America will circulate a new report on the Hill Monday, making the point that none of the recently-elected members of Congress would have won if their constituents who didn’t vote at all had been counted as votes against them.
“[L]et’s take a look at what would happen to Rep. John Mica (R-FL), the Chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and the lead driver behind the insertion of the NMB elections provision into the larger FAA Reauthorization bill,” their report reads.
Rep. Mica received support from 69% of the voters in his district who cast a ballot in his successful 2010 re-election campaign, amounting to slightly over 185,000 actual votes tallied for him.
However, if you add the over 83,000 voters who voted against Rep. Mica to 312,000 eligible voters who did not participate, then Rep. Mica would only muster 32% of the overall total - falling far short of the majority needed for election. Rep. Mica would lose handily to the 68% of “voters” who chose his opponent or were non-participating voters whose absence was counted as a vote for the alternative.
This is a cute way to look at the debate, but it’s also the way several Republicans see things.
Here’s what Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI) said about it in committee when an effort to strip it failed by one vote.
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…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?
You can read the entire report below. The legislation is expected on the House floor Thursday.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.