U.S. Senate Rejects Measure on Stricter Union Voting

The U.S. Senate, facing the threat of a presidential veto, defeated legislation today that would have made it more difficult for labor unions to organize workers at airlines such as Delta Air Lines Inc. and FedEx Corp.

Senator Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, introduced the measure to roll back a National Mediation Board ruling that eased requirements for votes in union elections. The Democrat-led Senate voted 56-43 to block Isakson’s resolution.

The measure would have required that a majority of all workers to approve joining a union, rather than a majority of those who vote, as allowed by the board. The White House Office of Management and Budget issued a statement today saying that if the Isakson legislation passed, senior advisers would have recommended that President Barack Obama veto it.

“Outcomes should be determined by a majority of the valid ballots cast,” the administration statement said.

The rules change by the mediation board in May was a victory for transportation labor unions after Obama took office and gave the board, which oversees labor relations among carriers, a 2-1 Democratic majority.

The change by the board will have a “dramatic” impact in Georgia, home of Delta, the world’s largest carrier, Isakson said on the Senate floor before the vote.

The carrier has rebuffed six organizing campaigns since 2000, and the administration “has chosen to tilt the outcome in labor elections,” Isakson said.

Delta would be affected because unions for flight attendants and baggage-and-ramp workers have said they want to organize almost 35,000 employees at the Atlanta-based carrier. The flight attendants are scheduled to begin voting to join unions Sept. 29.

The rule change also may affect FedEx, JetBlue Airways Corp., AirTran Holdings Inc., Alaska Air Group Inc. and Hawaiian Holdings Inc. A federal judge in June upheld the rule against a challenge by the companies.

The legislation is S.J. Res. 30.