Communications Workers of America, one of the nation’s largest labor unions, is attacking U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Vancouver, for her vote last week to retain language in a massive Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that treats workers who do not vote in union representation elections as “no” votes, reports The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash.
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill if that language remains, saying it would undermine a fundamental principle of fairness in union representation elections. In a press release, the CWA points out that if the same principle applied in congressional elections, Herrera Beutler would have received only 28.6 percent of the vote last November instead of the 53 percent she won.
Herrera Beutler worked in Washington, D.C., as a senior legislative aide for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Spokane, from 2005-07.
“Despite the bedrock democratic principles of fairness at stake, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler helped ensure that this egregious and unfair election provision remained in the larger FAA bill,” the union said in a statement, noting that 16 Republicans joined Democrats in voting to strip the election provision from the larger bill. The amendment to strip the language failed on a 220-206 vote.
The union, which represents about 400,000 workers in telecommunications, media, airlines, manufacturing and public service, has taken a high-profile role recently in defending worker rights, organizing community rallies, vigils, teach-ins and other events.
Casey Bowman, Herrera Beutler’s spokesman, defended the Camas Republican’s vote.
“Jaime voted to restore the election system that had been in effect for the past 75 years until two political appointees changed the process through bureaucratic, not democratic, means,” Bowman said. “Jaime voted not to allow a minority of those in a workplace to impose unionization on the entire workplace. Workers are still free to unionize — they just have to get a majority of those who would be affected to agree that’s the best decision.”
The union noted that Herrera Beutler represents more than 25,000 unionized transportation workers in the 3rd Congressional District.
In 2010, the National Mediation Board adopted a labor-friendly rule change to bring union representation elections in line with the principle that governs public elections: Only count the ballots of those who vote. According to the Mediation Board, of 16 airline worker representation elections held since July 1, 14 would have turned out the same way under either election method.