By margins of just a few hundred votes, the Flight Attendants and Machinists narrowly lost two recent elections seeking to represent workers at Delta Air Lines, where a merged workforce of unionized workers of the former Northwest Airlines and the largely non-union pre-merger Delta now may become one non-union workforce.
Both unions say Delta management violated labor law repeatedly in a no-holds-barred campaign pressuring workers to vote no to union representation.
News of the International Association of Machinists’ loss in the representation election for baggage handlers came November 18, just as the final two pages of the Labor Review went to press.
According to news reports, the vote in the baggage handlers election was 5,569 “no” votes to 4,909 “yes” votes – a margin of just 660 votes. The voting period ran October 14 to November 18.
Two more groups of Delta workers were in the middle of elections. Stores/supply attendants workers vote until November 22. Passenger services workers were set to vote November 2 until December 7.
Results of the union representation vote by Delta flight attendants were announced November 3 by the National Mediation Board. Flight attendants cast 8,778 votes for the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and 9,544 votes against union representation: a loss for the union by just 766 votes.
Knowing all three IAM votes might be close in the wake of the Flight Attendants’ close loss, the IAM put even more urgency into each of the three campaigns, reported Ken Hooker, president of IAM Local 1833 in Minneapolis.
Interviewed by the Labor Review a few days before the results of the baggage handlers vote, Hooker said, “we’ve been pretty focused all through this election.” But the Flight Attendants’ narrow loss, he added, “buckled everybody down to become even more focused.”
“It woke people up, too,” he said. “A lot of people thought it was a done deal.”
Balloting in each of the three IAM elections and the AFA election has been in the form of phone-in votes or internet votes, protected by a PIN password for each eligible voter.
Unions, however, said that method of voting did not protect workers from extreme pressure from Delta to vote “no” for union representation.
“It has been obvious the company has been on a full court press to get people to vote,” Hooker said. “They pretty much broke every rule in the book to get people to vote no.”
Company tactics included mandatory meetings, mailings to workers’ homes, and regular e-mail messages.
Company websites where workers were required to log in also featured anti-union messages.
Many workers, Hooker said, were afraid and did not want the company to know they were a supporter of the union.
“We’re going at this realistically and we’re in a position to win these campaigns,” Hooker said before the results of the November 18 vote. “We’re going to keep on going right through December 7 regardless of what happens.”
Both the IAM and AFA are expected to file complaints with the National Mediation Board in the wake of Delta’s aggressive and illegal tactics.