On January 31, 2019, the three-member National Mediation Board (NMB), which oversees labor relations for the airline and railroad industries, published a proposed rule-making to simplify the process for workers covered by the Railway Labor Act (RLA) to decertify the unions representing them.

Currently, RLA-represented employees seeking to decertify a union must identify an individual willing to be personally named and represent the bargaining unit. After more than 50 percent of the unit’s members sign an authorization card that clearly states their desire to no longer be represented by the union, the named person is authorized to apply to the NMB to hold a representation election. Then, the NMB will hold an election with options to vote for (1) the current union representation, (2) the named individual, (3) a write-in candidate, or (4) “no union.” To decertify the incumbent union, the majority vote must be for either “no union” or the named individual – who would then disclaim interest in representing the bargaining unit.

The proposed rule would eliminate the named individual requirement (also referred to as a “straw man”), leaving just the options of voting for the current representation, no union, or a write-in candidate. If the “no union” option receives the majority of the votes, the union is decertified and the NMB will not accept future applications from any organization or individual desiring to represent the bargaining unit for two years from the date of decertification.

The NMB’s position is that the “straw man” requirement has no basis in statute and has, in practice, served as a barrier to decertification efforts as bargaining units often faced “an unjustifiable hurdle” to attempt to convince an individual to be personally named. The NMB contends that relieving the bargaining unit from the “straw man” burden will both “simplify the decertification process” and place decertification on a level playing field with certification.

The comment period on this proposed rule is open until April 1, 2019, after which a public hearing will be held in Washington, D.C. at a date and location to be announced.