Flight Attendants Union Loses 2nd Crack at Delta

December 16, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) won't get another shot at organizing Delta Air Lines flight attendants even though the union complained the company illegally interfered during the first election.

That was the decision from the National Mediation Board (NMB), which oversees the airline industry’s labor relations, according to a Dow Jones news report.

Delta’s flight attendants overwhelmingly rejected the AFA’s unionization move last February. But after the election the NMB said it would continue to investigate the AFA complaints against Delta, Dow Jones said.

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In a preliminary inquiry, the NMB found evidence of interference by the airline last fall, but delayed further investigation pending the outcome of the election. Delta currently has about 18,000 flight attendants.

Anti-Union Videos and Company Harassment

According to Dow Jones, among other things, the union claimed that the carrier sent anti-AFA videos to employees’ homes and encouraged flight attendants to rip up their ballots.

The union also complained that the company harassed union activists and noted that it was common for an “inordinate number of Delta supervisors to suddenly appear” whenever union activists set up information tables in crew lounges or distributed union literature, the Dow Jones report said.

In its filing, the NMB said that while it was “troubled” by a number of such “surveillance” incidents, there is enough credible evidence that increased supervisory presence was in the course of business.

The decision comes at a time when many of the nation’s airlines, faced with high fixed costs and shrinking revenue, are pressuring the unions to cut their expenses.

Delta has a bit more flexibility in hammering out work rules and wage concessions than its peers because, as the nation’s third-largest carrier, it is the least unionized of all the major airlines. Now having beat back the AFA, Delta is left with the powerful Air Lines Pilots Association, the union that represents its pilots, Dow Jones reported. A handful of dispatchers and pilot trainers also are unionized.

Delta: Unions ‘Not in the best interest’ of   Employees

In a memo to flight attendants as reported by Dow Jones, Sharon Wibben, Delta’s senior vice president of In-Flight Service, said the airline was “pleased” with the NMB’s decision.

“Delta strongly believes that further unionization is not in the best interest of Delta people, our families or the company we have built together,” the memo said. “Delta continues its proactive plans to regain profitability while remaining in control of our destiny.”

The AFA called the decision “shameful and contradictory,” and said the NMB ignored precedent and the facts, the news report said.