Stronger Workplace Democracy for Airline and Rail Industries?

Emily Udell

A rule proposed by the federal National Mediation Board Monday could go a long way toward easing the organizing barriers airline and railroad workers face.

If the rule is approved, a majority among votes cast in an election would decide whether workers could join a union. Currently workers in these sectors face elections in which any vote not cast counts as a vote against the union.

The AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department asked the NMB, which governs labor relations in the airline and rail industries, to change the election procedures back in September.

Edward Wytkind, president of that department, says:

The deck is currently stacked against airline and railroad workers…. With this change, never again will workers in these industries seeking to form a union be thwarted by such un-democratic rules.

Naturally, the airlines oppose the proposed change, which is related to a dispute raised by unionized flight attendants and ground workers of Northwest Airlines, which was acquired by Delta earlier this year.

The NMB voted 2-to-1 on the proposal. Two of its three members are former union leaders, including Linda Puchala, who was appointed by President Obama this year.

The board will decide on the rule change after a 60-day comment period. You can weigh in on the proposal by contacting the board either by e-mail (legal@​nmb.​gov) or fax ((202) 692-5085), through Reg​u​la​tions​.gov, or by mail (National Mediation Board, 1301 K St NW, Suite 250E, Washington, DC 20005).

Workers gambling against retirement: study

Hewitt Associates released a report in late October that shows nearly
half of workers who change jobs are cashing out their 401(k) plans,
thereby losing a chunk of the money in penalties and fees.

Some 46 percent of workers convert their 401(k) retirement funds to cash after leaving a job, the report found.

Pamela Hess, Hewitt’s director of retirement research told the AP this means:

Millions of Americans who rely on defined contribution plans will find themselves unable to achieve a financially secure retirement.

Workers in their 20s were even more likely to cash-out at a rate of 60 percent. Hewitt calls for a change in policy related to 401(k) accounts because fewer than one in five workers will have sufficient savings for retirement.

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Emily Udell is a writer for Angie’s List Magazine in Indianapolis. In 2009, she finished a stint drinking bourbon and covering breaking news for The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky. Her eclectic media career also includes time at the Associated Press, Punk Planet (R.I.P.), The Daily Southtown in southwest Chicago, and Radio Prague in the Czech Republic. She co-hosted and co-produced In These Times’ radio show Fire on the Prairie” from 2003 to 2006.
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