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Organising in the US aviation and rail sectors is set to become easier thanks to new proposals to change the way in which union elections are carried out.

Organising in the US aviation and rail sectors is set to become easier thanks to new proposals to change the way in which union elections are carried out.

The US agency, charged with facilitating industrial relations in the aviation and rail sectors, the National Mediation Board (NMB), this week took the first step towards overhauling union representation election rules. The NMB plans to amend the threshold for a successful union election from a majority of eligible voters to a majority of voters who actually participate in the election. This means that non-voters will no longer be treated as if they had voted against union representation.

The ITF-affiliated union the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) will be submitting formal comments in favour of the proposed rule change.

IAMAW spokesperson Joseph Tiberi said: “Current NMB procedures for union elections for air transport and rail workers in the US are unfair and undemocratic. Under the current process, if a worker chooses not to vote, the government tells them they voted against unionisation. The new NMB proposal ensures that everyone can vote whichever way they choose.”

The NMB’s proposal also has support in congress. “Elections across our country are based on recognising the choice of the majority of voters who participate in the election. Non-votes are not counted as favoring one outcome or the other. This should be the practice of the NMB as well,” wrote House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar and House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman George Miller in an October 29, 2009 letter to the National Mediation Board.

The NMB’s authority to make such a rule change is contained within the Railway Labor Act and has been affirmed by the Supreme Court.