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Imagine it's election day. You have an emergency. You or a family member falls suddenly ill or gets in an accident. You don't have time to go to the elections office to vote, so you end up not voting. But suppose your county elections division decides that since the majority of voters registered in your precinct are Republican, if you had voted, you would have voted Republican, so they go ahead and count you as a GOP vote, even though you didn't vote at all.

In any election in the United States, that would be vote fraud and illegal. If it were done by union bosses in union organizing votes, they would be villifed by politicians, by the national media, and particularly by Republicans. But that's how it was in  union elections in the railroad and airline industries, until last year, when the National Mediation Board that oversees those elections adopted a rule change, making non-votes null.

Which brings us to today, and an effort by the House GOP to overturn the NMB ruling, and make it harder for railway and aviation workers to organize by institutionalizing what amounts to voter fraud in their union elections. Sam Stein and Laura Bassett have the story at HuffPo.

Sponsored by House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.)—a major recipient of campaign contributions from the airline industry, totaling more than $620,000 in his career—the controversial provision states if an eligible voter fails to vote for union representation, he or she will be tallied as an active vote against representation.

Such a policy, which puts an extra burden on union organizers to round up all voters, rather than a simple majority, existed up until last July, when the federal National Mediation Board, which adjudicates labor-management disputes, ruled that absent votes ought not be counted against unionization. Labor officials hailed that decision as one of their signature victories last year, and the proposal to strip it away has sparked an equally emotional reaction.

"This was the one advancement that you had seen in organizing rights and here they have launched an all-out effort in the House to go after unions again," said Shane Larson, the legislative director for the Communications Workers of America. "Currently, this is the biggest issue federally right now in terms of organizing rights. There is nothing else that is on the table."

Last year, 13 House Republicans signed onto a letter commending the NMB, according to a fact sheet [pdf] provided by labor. Three Republicans in the House Transportation Committee voted for an amendment [pdf] by Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) to strip Mica's anti-union language from the bill. The Costello amendment failed by just one vote, so Republicans aren't even united in legalizing voter fraud. However, the cake seems to have been baked in the GOP House.

Two additional House committees -- Science and Ways and Means -- have input in the final legislative language, but according to House officials, neither has jurisdictional authority to revise Mica's provision.

"Once this comes to the floor," said one of those officials, "it will pass."

With that in mind, union operatives have turned their sights to the Senate, where a different version of the FAA reauthorization bill passed in mid-February. Sens. Jay Rockeller (D-W.V.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) are being petitioned especially heavily to strip Mica's provision when the two congressional chambers meet to merge their respective bills.

An aide to Rockefeller, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said he supports the new NMB rule, and that position "has not and will not change." Harkin, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, told labor leaders to "rest assured" that he would "vigorously oppose any effort to include these dangerous provisions in the FAA Reauthorization Act conference report."


"Now that it is in the bill and it is going to conference, the dynamics have changed," acknowledged one top Democratic Senate aide. "Senator Harkin would of course vehemently say it shouldn't be in there. But the question is, will people vote down the entire bill over it?"

This effort is just as pernicious as the more blatant, and far more publicized, union-busting of Republican governors Walker, Christie, Daniels and Kasich. It's all of a piece, and just the start, as Sen. Harkin warns.

"I expect this is only the beginning," Harkin said. "I think we'll see a lot of amendments this year -- probably on every bill we consider -- that will chip away at the basic rights and protections that help middle class working families get by. Like Governor Walker, advocates will describe these amendments as budget savers or pro-growth, but make no mistake, those are not their real goals. The real goal is to weaken the voice of American workers, and continue to push the same, trickle-down economic theory that has led us to unprecedented levels of inequality and instability."

Making it all the more important for Senate Democrats—and maybe even the White House, with a veto threat—to stop this one now.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:45 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  From now on (24+ / 0-)

    All non-voters are counted as voting against the incumbent in Congressional primaries. Even if he or she is running unopposed.

    That'll fix 'em.

    In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; but in practice, there always is a difference. - Yogi Berra

    by blue aardvark on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:47:47 AM PST

    •  A very apt analogy. (4+ / 0-)

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:00:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  except on alternate wednesdays. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MadRuth, blue aardvark
      Recommended by:

      The top 1% owns 43% of the wealth; the next 4% owns 29% of the wealth.  


      Republicans are pitting workers in that 80% against each other in his union v. private sector fight. The irony is that if they win, private sector workers nor tax payers will get a penny of that money. It will all go to corporate fat cats.

      There's a great pie chart on Flickr. Go to:

      Click on "Download" and print it out and pass it on!

      I've been leaving copies in restaurant booths, public restrooms, waiting rooms, shopping carts, etc.

      When I quote the wealth distribution figures to people, they don't believe me. When I prove it to them, they are shocked.

      We need to get this information out, and since the media isn't going to do it, we have to do it ourselves.

    •  If this is their agenda (0+ / 0-)

      and I believe it is, they sure screwed the pooch by letting Scott Walker be their standard bearer.

      I could buy a parrot and train it to say, `tax cuts,' but at the end of the day, it's still a parrot, not a conservative.

      by MadRuth on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:16:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Remember how much (18+ / 0-)

    they were defending the "secret ballot" in order to defeat EFCA?  The arguments change, but the class war by the rich agaisnt the rest of us continues.

    Trumka: "Absolutely Insane" to Extend Tax Cuts for Millionaires

    by TomP on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:48:04 AM PST

  •  Never seen a gas-powered (5+ / 0-)

    impact wrench before.

    With an extender bar (what we call a "horse cock") and a universal joint.

    I'm tool-geeking out here.

    Got your "class war" right here.

    by WesEverest on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:58:55 AM PST

  •  So much of importance goes down (7+ / 0-)

    in these key agencies.  Probabl the FCC most of all.  But EPA, HHS, FAA ... all huge.  

    Alarming to think what could happen if we drop the ball on ANY front.  And there are so many fronts!

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 10:59:09 AM PST

    •  FAA in memory Reagan's great moment? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pHunbalanced, 714day, lgmcp

      Reagan's power-play against organized labor, in the form of firing the PATCO members, is getting some heavy re-telling in the right-wing blogs. Walker's trying to both live up to the "greatness" and rework history to vilify public employee unions in general.

      The attack on unions is their urgent unfinished work left from the CU vs FEC decision. The local, state and national attacks are all part of the same agenda. And public employee unions are both the largest stronghold remaining of organized labor, and easiest to turn the tea-party nihilists against.

      But, could the PATCO history be why they picked the FAA bill to stick this flag into?

      Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

      by chimpy on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:35:15 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks so much (14+ / 0-)

    I would not have known about this sneaky maneuver, or many others, without the diligence of this site and its many fine authors!

    •  Lots of good folks working on this (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MadRuth, KLM, 714day, chimpy, marina, Amber6541

      bringing it to our attention, so we can bring it to yours.

      The good news about the WI fight is that it's really getting people organized to fight back these efforts wherever they pop up. And that means we're in a better position for all the fights.

      But a few early wins, in Wisconsin or with this, will mean fewer fights down the road, hopefully.

      When it becomes "uncivil" to call out liars, lying becomes free. -- Rick Perlstein

      by Joan McCarter on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:21:24 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  A Little More Background Here (9+ / 0-)

    Diary from 2010 here:
    Forty-Three Senators Oppose Fair Representation Elections

    When they were pushing this last year.

  •  The question is: (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MadRuth, 714day, chimpy, skillet

    Not that the Dems know about this stinker in the bill, but what will they do about it?  They have been spineless, gutless and everything else.  They get on MSNBC and complain about what the republicans are doing in their bill drafting, but when push comes to shove, they get pushed and shoved like the wimps they are and go along with the MINORITY.  They need to walk the walk not just talk the talk.  I'm sick to death of these Democrats caving on important stuff that really would make a difference in everyday Americans lives.  Can anyone say Public Option? How about credit card rate caps?

    Sorry, my rant is done now

  •  are these guys really that freakin dumb? (3+ / 0-)

    I mean, seriously?

    Are they trying to galvanize the rest of the democrats across the country.  Obama is going to score so many points with a simple hard veto threat and it will change this from a Wisconsin/Republican-Controlled-States issue to a real nationwide issue.

    These guys cant be that dumb, can they?

    Although, I have learned that whenever I ask that question the answer is always, "Yes...they are."


    •  Not so dumb necessarily.... (0+ / 0-)

      the best time to pull this sh*t is right after an election, so there's plenty of time for voters to forget before the next election...the only danger for them is if they pull sh*t that is so outrageous that it is truly unforgettable ...

      "All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out." --I.F. Stone

      by Alice in Florida on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 03:20:17 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Ah, but (0+ / 0-)
        the only danger for them is if they pull sh*t that is so outrageous that it is truly unforgettable ...
        Scott Walker has already done that.

        I could buy a parrot and train it to say, `tax cuts,' but at the end of the day, it's still a parrot, not a conservative.

        by MadRuth on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:21:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  That is true only (0+ / 0-)

      if Obama makes a hard veto threat.  I hate to say it, but that is not guaranteed.

      I could buy a parrot and train it to say, `tax cuts,' but at the end of the day, it's still a parrot, not a conservative.

      by MadRuth on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 05:19:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I (5+ / 0-)

    am flabbergasted at what is going on in this country right now.  And I suppose I am more surprised that more regular people aren't as horrified as I am.  

    I spoke with someone last night who attempted to blame teachers' pensions for the budget problems in CA.  ... He listens to right wing radio, and I stopped him short when I asked, "So, the promises made to these people 20 years ago should be null and void because the state and local districts misused or squandered their pension plans?"  He got very quiet and agreed that they should not be denied their promised pensions...but he wasn't happy about it.  I told him I had plenty of paperwork and research to back up my claims...that shut him up.  I hope he will begin to change his view on this.   We'll see I suppose.

  •  The object is to undermine the power (8+ / 0-)

    of the people, natural persons.  Artificial persons, i.e. corporations (public and private), have an incentive to cooperate in this endeavor.  Corporations are set up for the express purpose to diffuse responsibility and accountability.  This puts them in conflict with the people who want them to account for their actions.

    Congress, the rule-making arm of our preeminent public corporation, has little interest in providing supervision for the subsidiary private corporations because, since the advent of FTCA, which makes them vulnerable to public inspection and review, our congresscritters rely on private corporations to do their dirty work for them.  So, the keep private corporations much as antagonistic persons keep pit bulls to intimidate the neighbors.

    by hannah on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:09:58 AM PST

  •  Defeating Walker would send the right message (5+ / 0-)
  •  Just one more reason to despise the airline (3+ / 0-)

    industry and Republicans.  As if I needed anymore!

    "A free society that will not help the many who are poor, cannot save the few who are rich." JFK, January, 1961

    by rontun on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:14:16 AM PST

  •  "We'll vote for you" (0+ / 0-)

    After all, "we" have your best interests at heart. Hey, have we ever steered you wrong before?


    Your Corporate Overlords.

    The so-called "rising tide" is lifting only yachts.

    by Egalitare on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:19:20 AM PST

  •  This is what I expect for the Carjacker (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Commission Austerity Measures.

    They will be split up and buried in 50 other, non-related bills, just as this shit is being buried in a relatively unrelated bill.

    It was stripped out once, so they wait, hunker down, and try it again

    They break laws they don't like and intend for us to have to follow laws that they like.

    Again, how so many people can tolerate these monsters politely is scary and tells me the deals are pretty well done.

    I have loved the outpouring of real protests, but I feel like the bad people WILL get everything they want, no matter what we the people do or need - because they have the money to make it happen.

    And because they can simply bury laws that people don't like in bills that people will support.

    One way or another the GOP is going to Kill unions and as many americans as they can.

    21st Century Republicans would much rather legalize murder than marijuana.
    DK4 Cannabis Reform Group Writing Guidelines

    by xxdr zombiexx on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:21:34 AM PST

  •  Well you can say what you want (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    KLM, Amber6541

    about the sons-of-bitches, but they're sure not lazy. Absolutely tireless in their assault on worker's rights.

    Just spitting out emails from my sanctimonious purity-castle.

    by porchdog1961 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:21:39 AM PST

  •  So, now, if someone fails to vote, (0+ / 0-)

    his/her vote will be Rethuglican by default?

    What a Country!!

    "Activism begins with you, Democracy begins with you, get out there, get active! Tag, you're it!" Thom Hartmann

    by glogrrl on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:36:38 AM PST

  •  Radical R's hate people who aren't rich, move (0+ / 0-)

    along nothing to see here.

    John Kasich, R-OH-gov hates black people, women, children, and unions, I guess that covers almost everyone.

    by OHknighty on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:38:17 AM PST

  •  Now that there is a Regan Democrat (0+ / 0-)

    in the White House, I can't expect that union busters wouldn't at least give this a try. Who knows, maybe they can manage to bust up organized labor from the federal perch again; just as if it were the good old days.

  •  VETO THREAT! (please) (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is where Obama can make his pro-labor stand. Keep him away from Wisconsin, please, but let him speak up on this.

  •  If... (0+ / 0-)

    If republicans had their way we wouldn't be a democracy.

    Pencils aren't for eating. Trust me.

    by Hamtree on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 11:43:33 AM PST

  •  When you have a capitulator in chief (0+ / 0-)

    as your guy in the oval office and he never, ever takes strong stands for the people (see Wisconsin) then you cannot expect any more than this.  Kind of like buying a cat to keep the mice out of the house but instead finding the cat has other priorities.

    "The people are becoming aware that they, not the politicians, have the answers. If the politicians do not cease looking after their own selfish interests and begin to obey the will of the people, they will suffer “mental paralysis.”"
    - World Teacher Maitreya through an associate as reported by Share International

  •  It will be amusing to see the GOP attack recall of (0+ / 0-)

    a governor, turning themselves into pretzels to explain how Cal. recall was "different."

  •  the Hard Right has been successful (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alice in Florida, justmy2, Justus

    in convincing people that the war is Real working people against some nebulous Elitist Union Class of working people. It's part of the problem of all workers in the US viewing themselves as "middle class." People who lost the good manufacturing jobs and pensions are encouraged to think of themsevles as still middle class and "those union workers" as elitist lazy people who feed off the taxpayer.  It scares me when I keep reading this nonsense.

    Listen up, guys! It turns out that if we don't hurry up and change the world, later it's the world that changes us. --Mafalda

    by forester on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:15:31 PM PST

  •  But we are winning the argument? (0+ / 0-)

    At least that is what I keep being told?  The polls say the public is on our side?

    One day Democrats will learn when when and how to utilize polling data.  Unfortunately, the time is not now.

    While Dems ignore public option polls clearly showing public approval, they celebrate polls on collective bargaining while in the background Republican diligently work to set the ground work for eliminating them.

    I don't even pretend to think they know what they are doing anymore.

    "Senator McCain offered up the oldest Washington stunt in the book - you pass the buck to a commission to study the problem." - Senator Obama, 9-16-2008

    by justmy2 on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:16:57 PM PST

  •  Few people are going to agree (0+ / 0-)

    ...that crippling one side's ability to negotiate is fair. The GOP thinks that a 42% turnout in 2010 means the "American people" are with them. They made the same error when Bush lost the 2000 vote, then veered hard to the right after the Supreme Court installed him.

    They miscalculated badly here and it's blowing up in their faces. Just because Media Inc is not covering the deep angst of tens of millions workers exposed to a shrunken economy - while millionaires continue to be shielded - does not mean it's not there. These statehouse protests prove it is there. Goes way beyond public union rights. - global issues

    by Balkingpoints on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 12:31:31 PM PST

  •  Another one (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    There is also a house bill that prevents anyone from talking about or doing anything even remotely about their union anywhere that might be considered "work" if they are a federal employee.

    So you would have to meet with your union rep after hours somewhere else. Makes dealing with a grievance or anyone even communicating pretty much impossible.

    I wonder what other anti-union gems they have buried in various bills.

  •  A Dem Amendment? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Alice in Florida

    If the Repubs bring this travesty to the floor, then I hope a Dem offers the following amendment:

    On legislation voted on in the House, any absentee or other non voting members shall have their votes automatically cast as NO votes.

  •  Hell, outsource it to India (0+ / 0-)

    You KNOW they would if they thought they could get away with it. Just hope the connection isn't slowed down or anything while they watch the radar..

    If there was a law they was workin' with, maybe we could take it, but it ain't the law. They're workin' away our spirits, tryin' to make us cringe and crawl, takin' away our decency. Tom Joad

    by Uosdwis on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 02:11:01 PM PST

  •  I still don't agree with the way this is marketed (0+ / 0-)

    I had a similar discussion with a diarist in a previous diary on this subject.  The Mica proposal here undoes a rule change by the Obama NMB (a very, very good rule change).  So this is not a radical proposal or an unsuprising proposal.  It's a bad proposal.  It's an anti-worker proposal.  But the way this is being discussed as if it's out of right field or as if it represents a new front on the Republican war on workers is over the top, if you ask me.

    Instead, we should be talking about the following issue: Elections Have Consequences.  Obama won and appointed a pro-labor set of members to the National Mediation Board who supported this rule change.  The rule change is in line with all other labor elections.  Opponents of the rule change can have their day in court to challenge this under administrative law (which they are).  

    But this is not the equivalent of Wisconsin.  If it's in the same ballpark, then it's in center field and Wisconsin's at home plate.

    Fact are stubborn things. -John Adams

    by circlesnshadows on Tue Mar 08, 2011 at 08:00:38 PM PST

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