WASHINGTON – The National Mediation Board, which oversees labor management relations at airlines and railroads, announced June 1 that it will open a formal investigation of whether management misconduct skewed last November’s union recognition vote  at Atlanta-based Delta Airlines.

The board acted in response to evidence brought by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. The union said management labor law-breaking – such as creating a system where flight attendants had to go through Delta’s website to get to the NMB’s to cast electronic ballots – might have been enough to turn the outcome against the union.

AFA-CWA narrowly lost the race for union recognition at the “New Delta,” its third try at unionizing the flight attendants at the carrier – but its first since red-state non-union Delta devoured wall-to-wall-union blue-state Northwest Airlines.

It was also the first time AFA-CWA contested for the flight attendants under the NMB’s new election rules, which require only a simple majority of ballots cast to declare a winner. AFA-CWA got 46.8 percent of the almost 19,000 ballots, but “no union” got 50.9 percent. Other unions and “representation” without a particular union split the rest.

The NMB investigates whether “allegations and evidence” of employer “interference, influence, or coercion” could “reasonably taint” the “laboratory conditions” that are supposed to exist during a recognition vote, NMB General Counsel Mary Johnson wrote both sides. “After reviewing the submissions by AFA and Delta, I find that further investigation is needed,” she added.

“Delta flight attendants will finally have their day in court,” AFA President Veda Shook said after receiving Johnson’s letter. “Delta management’s misconduct was blatant and persistent, from daily emails to a barrage of misinformation sent in slick brochures to homes, to encouraging Flight Attendants to vote on company computers, where they could be monitored.”

The union also said Delta supervisors called flight attendants at home, while the airline denied AFA supporters even the right to talk to their colleagues in lobbies of layover hotels.

“Delta management has not denied the substance of any of our charges,” Shook said. “Instead, they have disrupted lives by denying flight attendants the right to a fair election and delaying the integration process” at the two airlines. AFA is also supporting the 7,000-8,000 Northwest attendants who sued the airline in federal court earlier this year for discrimination in pay and bonuses based on the fact that there were union members before the merger.



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.