• Several interested parties submitted comments to the National Mediation Board (“NMB”) regarding the application of a new amendment to the Railway Labor Act that raised the showing-of-interest threshold for unions seeking to represent workers in the airline and railroad industries. The comments concern the application in merger situations of the new higher threshold of submitting authorization cards from at least 50 percent of employees. The new law replaced the long-standing 35 percent threshold. Three top Senate Democrats (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid; John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee; and Tom Harkin, chairman the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee) submitted a letter arguing the new threshold does not apply to mergers. However, Republican members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, the amendment’s principal authors, have stated the new threshold applies to representation elections arising as a result of mergers. The National Railway Labor Conference, in a statement supporting application of the new threshold to all representation elections, characterizes the new law as being “unqualified” and without exception for mergers. An AFL-CIO statement points out that the new law directs the NMB to apply the higher threshold “upon receipt of an application” for certification, which, the union argues, is distinct from the board’s merger procedures that require a union to request the board to make a “single carrier determination.” According to the House Committee Chairman John Mica, “[m]ore than 80 percent of all airline workers involved in recent NMB representation elections were in disputes that arose after a merger.”
  • Between 40,000 and 45,000 members of unions and labor supporters gathered for the “Workers Stand for America” rally in Philadelphia. The event focused on “America’s Second Bill of Rights.” Those rights include the right to a decent job and a living wage, a voice in the workplace, full participation in the electoral process, a high quality education, and a secure, healthy future. Labor plans to ask all elected officials to sign the Second Bill of Rights and will push for both political parties to incorporate it into their platforms at their respective conventions. Several labor figures and Democrats appeared at the rally, including President Obama, who appeared by video.
  • The Protect Our Jobs coalition, a union-backed campaign, is seeking immediate review by the Michigan Supreme Court of a proposed ballot question that would ask voters to ensconce collective bargaining rights in an amendment to the state constitution. The move follows a deadlock vote by the Michigan Board of Canvassers, which considers such issues after receiving petitions to certify ballot questions. Opponents of the ballot question argue that the proposed 100-word question is unconstitutional because it does not sufficiently explain the impact of the amendment. The coalition’s court filing states that the proposed ballot question is constitutional because it is an amendment addressing a single issue, not a “general revision” that would require more disclosure. The amendment would affect 18 sections of the constitution and around 170 existing statutes.
  • The International Labor Organization announced that a new international convention protecting maritime workers will go into effect next year. The Maritime Labor Convention establishes minimum requirements for seafarers to engage in maritime work and presents norms regarding a range of terms and conditions of employment. The Maritime Labor Convention also gives port authorities in countries that have ratified the convention the power to inspect vessels to ensure compliance, regardless of whether vessel’s flag state has ratified the convention, as well as the power to detain violating ships in the event of serious violations. The convention has been ratified by 30 ILO member countries representing nearly 60 percent of global shipping tonnage.
  • The 2012 Republican platform reflects a stronger union-free stance than in 2008, building on congressional and other party positions during the last few years. The platform does not include any affirmation of the right to join a union or collectively bargain, as it did in 2008. And, in addition to supporting right-to-work laws at the state level, the 2012 platform also supports enacting a national right-to-work law. The platform promotes the Secret Ballot Protection Act, a 2011 House bill that would prohibit employers from recognizing or bargaining with a union until it has been certified as bargaining agent in an NLRB secret ballot election; supports the Reward Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees Act, a proposed amendment to the NLRA that would permit employers to give raises and bonuses not included in labor agreements; calls for the repeal of the David-Bacon Act, which includes a prevailing wage requirement for public works projects that has been under attack by Republicans; and, pushes for an end to project labor agreements, which Republican criticize as barring many workers from competing for jobs on major federal construction projects. The platform document also criticizes the Obama administration’s support of unions, derides the NLRB’s “partisan advoca[cy] for Big Labor,” praised Republic governors and state legislators that have taken action against public sector unions, and calls for legislation to “bar mandatory dues for political purposes.”
  • A report by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce highlights exemptions in state laws that permit union activities that would otherwise be illegal. The report, titled Sabotage, Stalking, & Stealth Exemptions: Special State Laws for Labor Unions, uses those exemptions to show the influence labor has on state and local governments and demonstrate “the extreme lengths the union movement will go in order to shield their members from accountability for their actions.” State laws that include exemptions range from anti-stalking laws in Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, and Nevada to a Wisconsin anti-sabotage law, which makes it a felony to disrupt military activities.