I used to cover labor issues both for Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine and somewhat more recently for Aviation Daily, so I've been following recent developments in the U.S. with interest, not to mention a little rust since I knew less than I used to.
But the key to understanding the big picture is knowing that it's all about the balance of power, administered by the federal government--who gets to do what, and when. That's why the stakes are so high for the airline industry and labor given the possibility that airlines may end up being governed by the same rules that apply to most other industries. We posted a story by Jennifer Michels on AviationWeek.com about that move at the National Mediation Board, and here's the lede to the longer story she wrote for the magazine:
The National Mediation Board (NMB) is considering changing its interpretation of a 75-year-old U.S. labor law governing airline and rail union elections, a politically charged proposal that could open the door for more unionization in the industry.
For a sector that is already stumbling financially and facing collective bargaining pressure from unions over past concessions, any changes to the law that could make it easier for unions to take root are being strongly opposed.
And it does not end with the airlines; the impact could be felt by all aviation-related companies. As one Boeing representative put it, it may not directly affect the manufacturer now, but any change to established labor law is reason for all to get involved in this debate.
Since then, Michels has been following the latest twist in industry news, with DOT Secretary Roy LaHood calling a closed-door meeting with labor, management and industry officials. I see Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit linked to that one given the possibility of airline re-regulation, and I don't think we'll be lacking for more developments on this front. Whether it's labor law or the foundations of how airlines may run their businesses, we're definitley dealing with an Administration non-shy about shaping the industry.
Until then I leave you with this Reason Foundation video about the brawl between FedEx (which operates under the Railway Labor Act) and UPS (which does not). Reason is a libertarian think tank so you're probably know what they're going to say before they say it, but it's a handy and entertaining guide--a takeoff on UPS commercials--even if you don't agree with its conclusions. (Profanity alert in the beginning, sorry, they're pirates over there).