In an earlier post, the different union election rules applicable to employers in the airline and railroad industry earned a brief mention. The rule used to be that the union needs to get a majority of those in the proposed bargaining unit to vote for union representation. It was not just a simple majority of those voting. The effect was that those who didn’t show up to vote ended up counting as votes against the union.

The National Mediation Board, the federal agency that is responsible for administering labor laws applicable in the airline and railroad industry, has changed all that. Recently, the NMB announced that, effective July 1, 2010, the rule would change from a majority of those in the proposed unit to a majority of those voting. This rule change brings the NMB’s rules in line with those applicable to other private sector industries subject to the National Labor Relations Act.

The rule change sparked a federal court lawsuit by an airline industry association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Aviation Week provided coverage of the issue. Thus far, the outcome of that suit has not been positive. On June 25, the federal court refused to delay the effective date of the rule change.

Labor professionals working for employers subject to the NMB’s jurisdiction should be aware of this change. Non-union employers will need to adjust their strategies related to a possible union organizing drive. The change clearly makes it easier for unions to win representation elections.