Decertification under the Railway Labor Act 

[En español] 

Under the Railway Labor Act, there is no "deauthorization" procedure (a procedure by which employees can simply get rid of the "union shop" forced unionism clause in a contract between a union and their employer), but there is a way to possibly "decertify" or entirely get rid of the union from the work place:

Railway and airline employees have the right to oust a union as their exclusive bargaining agent if a majority of the employees in a "craft or class" sign cards authorizing a fellow employee to serve as their "representative" and that employee files an application for "Investigation of Representational Dispute" with the National Mediation Board (NMB). Once all of this is submitted (further instructions on this are below) the NMB then would hold a vote that allows for:

a) Representation by the individual employee representative mentioned above,

b) no representation by any representative or union, or

c) to keep the current union.

This process is the only way to bring about a vote on a new representative or no representative at all.

The following link is to a public NMB case file of railroad employees who went through with this process. A majority of employees signed cards in support of a fellow employee being their representative, and then voted for no representation in the subsequent election: http://www.nmb.gov/representation/deter2012/39n026.pdf

A majority of the craft or class need to sign authorization cards in support of an election for the employee representative. They are then free to vote however they like (including for “no representation”) in the subsequent election. Details about the cards are below and so is a sample authorization card.

"Authorization cards: An authorization card is a card or document signed by the employee which states that the employee desires to be represented by an organization or individual for collective bargaining purposes.

Authorization cards must have the name of the organization or individual seeking to represent the craft or class, and must be signed and dated by the employee. Typically, authorization cards also include the following information: employee address, telephone number, job title, employee number, and social security number. The NMB compares the signed authorization cards to the List of Potential Eligible Voters supplied by the carrier to determine the percentage of employees signing authorization cards (generally referred to as the "showing of interest").

The language on authorization cards must be unambiguous and the NMB must be able to determine the employee's intent." (Source)

After the cards are signed, this form along with originals of the signed authorization cards would need to be submitted by the new potential employee representative to the NMB at the following address (certified or traceable mail is advised and copies should be made of the authorization cards for safe keeping):

National Mediation Board
1301 K. St. NW, Suite 250 East
Washington, DC 20005-7011

Furthermore, the individual who would be the representative should also send in a one page "notice of appearance" with their information and the role that they are playing in the process to the above NMB address. This notice of appearance must include name, title, address, telephone and fax number (if applicable), and e-mail address.

A detailed account of the whole procedure is available here, but remember that an individual employee representative would be in the role of the union: http://www.nmb.gov/representation/representation-manual.pdf

The case that established the right of railway and airline employees to opt for non-representation is Russell v. NMB, 714 F.2d 1332 (5th Cir. 1983), in which a Foundation attorney represented the employees who wanted no union representation. If you would like a copy of the Russell decision, please let us know (include your postal address), and we will mail it to you.

Also, if you want legal advice in pursuing "decertification" under Russell, please notify us and your request for assistance will be referred to a Staff Attorney.

Sample of an authorization card:

Signing This Authorization Is NOT A Vote For Or Against Any Representative or No Representation. It Simply Authorizes The NMB To Hold An Election. You Are Free To Vote, By Secret Ballot, For Whomever You Wish.

Authorization Card

I, _________(Name of Employee)______________, authorize ______(Name of Potential New Representative)________ to petition the NMB on my behalf for purposes of holding a representation election under the Railway Labor Act for the craft or class of_______(“Craft or class” at issue)_______ employed by _________(Employer)__________.
Date: ___________________ Signed: ________________________________
(Written by Employee) (Signed by Employee)
Employee #: _____________ Address: ________________________________

Phone # _________________ City, ST Zip: _____________________________

You are not casting a vote either way by filling out the above Authorization Card. You are simply calling for the National Mediation Board to hold an Election. The signed card is valid for one year. Fifty percent plus one is needed to petition the NMB for an election.


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