How many ways are there to sidestep Congress’ refusal to make it easier for unions to organize? Let us count them. No, better than that, let’s add yet another example — this one involving Delta Airlines — to the growing pile of end-runs around Congress to reward a constituency this White House badly needs at its side in next year’s presidential election.
Labor leaders bet big on an Obama victory in 2008, hoping Congress would enact, and the Democratic president would sign, “card-check” — legislation designed to turn around labor’s sagging membership rolls by ending secret-ballot elections in organizing drives. But card-check has never been able to pass the Senate — not even when Democrats took over Congress in 2006. Instead, presidential appointees friendly to labor are deploying agency muscle.
The latest example is taking place largely out of sight — at the National Mediation Board, a little known agency that oversees union elections for railroads and airlines. Late in 2010, flight attendants for the nonunion Delta and its unionized Northwest Airlines (acquired in a 2008 merger) voted thumbs down on joining the Association of Flight Attendants. The board — where two of the three members are former top union officials — reacted by investigating Delta for “interference” in the election, prompted by union claims that the company circulated too much literature.