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Organized labor gets renewed power

Marketplace Staff Nov 3, 2009
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Organized labor gets renewed power

Marketplace Staff Nov 3, 2009
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: Organized labor is feeling new power these days. The latest evidence: new rules for union elections in the airline and rail industries will make things easier for labor organizers. Here to explain is Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman,joining us live. Good morning.

Mitchell Hartman: Good morning, Bill.

Radke: What has changed for these airline and railroad workers?

Hartman: Well, a bit of history here. Since 1934 and the Railway Labor Act, if you didn’t show up when a union vote was taken, you were counted as a “no.” According to a new rule that was just published in the Federal Register, a simple majority of the votes cast will determine whether the union and collective bargaining come in. The upshot: assuming this new rule goes into effect after a 60-day comment period, it’s going to be easier to get a union. And this could affect a lot of people. You know, union membership has been declining for decades, but more than two-thirds of airline and rail workers are still in unions. And 40,000 workers at Delta and Continental are about to vote on whether to unionize.

Radke: And what’s prompting this shift in power toward unions?

Hartman: Well, in a word, it is Obama. The administration’s clearly more pro-labor than its predecessor. It gets to appoint people to governing boards. In this case, one new member on something called the National Mediation Board — she’s a former flight attendant union leader, by the way — she tipped the balance. The remaining Bush appointee is crying foul, and so is the airline industry’s trade group.

Radke: Any more items on labor’s agenda that might come up soon?

Hartman: Well, top of their wish list is something called “card check” legislation. It would allow a union in a workplace if enough people sign union cards. So far, that though is stalled in Congress.

Radke: Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman joining us live. Thank you.

Hartman: You’re welcome.

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