Delta Attendants’ Interference Claims Rejected by U.S. Board

Delta Air Lines Inc. (DAL) said the National Mediation Board rejected the Association of Flight Attendants’ claims of election interference, letting the union’s defeat last year stand.

The ruling by the three-member panel allows Delta to proceed with integrating 20,000 attendants under common work rules and pay scales after the company’s 2008 purchase of Northwest Airlines, according to a statement from the Atlanta- based carrier today.

The board in June agreed to investigate complaints by the union that Delta management interfered in an election last year by having employees cast votes on company-owned computers and having supervisors call attendants at home urging them to vote. Delta has called the interference claims “ridiculous.”

“We have always believed that our flight attendants’ voices and votes should be respected,” Joanne Smith, senior vice president of in-flight service at Delta, said in the statement.

The union lost the election in results tallied in November 2010, getting 49 percent of the vote in its third failed effort to organize Delta workers in the past decade. The AFA could have had another chance at a new election if the board had ruled in the union’s favor.

“It is a sad day indeed that it took the NMB one year to do nothing,” the union said in an e-mailed statement. “This is not democracy, not in outcome or process.” The board found “coercive conduct” by Delta yet determined that those actions didn’t affect the outcome, according to the statement.

The election was triggered after Delta bought Northwest, because Northwest attendants were represented by the AFA while their Delta peers were nonunion.

Board Changes

The mediation board is a three-person panel that referees labor-management relations at railroad and airline companies under the Railway Labor Act.

Democratic appointees of President Barack Obama in 2009 gained a majority on the board, which the following year the eased rules for representation elections in the airline industry aimed at improving a union’s chances for success.

Other interference claims related to elections for Delta customer service, cargo, reservation sales and maintenance stores groups are pending.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mary Jane Credeur in Atlanta at mcredeur@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at edufner@bloomberg.net

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