As you may know, the FAA is in its 12th day of a shutdown that resulted in the furlough of 4,000 FAA employees, threatens the jobs of 70,000 employees of construction firms doing business with the FAA ,and is costing the federal government an estimated $30 million per day in uncollected aviation taxes. You’ve probably also heard that the shutdown has been caused by a dispute between Democrats and Republicans over a provision in the FAA legislation passed in the House that cut $16 million in subsidies for thirteen rural airports. Well, the dispute isn’t about the airports it is about union busting. Congressman John Mica of Florida, head of the Transportation Committee and his fellow Republicans attached a provision to the FAA funding package making it harder to form unions. Republicans want to overturn a 2010 ruling by the National Mediation Board, the federal agency that mediates labor disputes for airline and railroad workers, which would make union elections more fair and democratic by counting votes of only those voting, instead of all eligible workers.
Why is counting non-voters in a union election as “NO” voters undemocratic? ThinkProgress offers this explanation using Mica’s own election to office as an example:
According to the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the results of Mica’s 2010 election would have been dramatically different with this rule in effect:
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.
In fact, the CWA found that if the rule applied to all congressional elections, the United States government wouldn’t have a single member of Congress.
None of the current Members of Congress would have won election in 2010 under this standard. For each of the 435 House races in the 2010 elections, if you added the non-voting eligible voting population in a congressional district to the actual vote total cast for the opponent(s) of the current Member, then not one Member would have mustered the majority of votes needed to win election.
According to the report, only six of the 435 members of Congress would have received more than 40 percent of the vote under this type of election. Mica’s proposal is not an assault on unions — it is an assault on the democratic election process itself.
Of course Republicans think what is fair for members of Congress isn’t fair for unions. Are we surprised? No.
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