Delta Air Lines Inc. and Northwest Airlines baggage and cargo handlers rejected an organizing drive by their industry’s largest union in a victory for the carrier’s efforts to keep its workforce mostly nonunion.
The vote was 5,569 workers against representation and 5,024 in favor, Atlanta-based Delta, which acquired Northwest in 2008, said in an e-mailed statement today. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said it was investigating claims that Delta illegally interfered in voting.
The 13,000 fleet-service workers are the second major group at Delta to reject a union this month, after U.S. labor rules passed since President Barack Obama took office relaxed the threshold for approval. In results announced Nov. 3, 51 percent of the 20,000 flight attendants at Delta and Northwest voted against union representation.
“Whether voting under old rules or an entirely new voting process, Delta people have decided to preserve the Delta culture,” the airline said. “Our people are ready to move forward. It’s time for unions to respect this will of the majority.”
The union in a statement today said it’s “investigating allegations of widespread illegal election interference.” Joseph Tiberi, a Machinists spokesman, declined to provide details.
Any such claims the union makes “would be ridiculous,” said Betsy Talton, a Delta spokeswoman. “The IAM often files interference claims after employees vote against them.”
It was the seventh union representation vote for Delta employees, resulting in no unions for about 40,000 workers, the carrier said.
The Delta vote follows a change by the U.S. National Mediation Board that lets a majority of votes cast determine the outcome. Previously, abstaining from casting a ballot was counted as a “no,” setting a higher threshold for unions to win approval.
The election stems from Delta’s purchase of Northwest Airlines Corp., which had more union employees. Before that acquisition, Delta’s pilots and flight dispatchers were the only groups represented by unions, about 12 percent of its workforce at the time.
Delta is the world’s second-largest carrier, behind United Continental Holdings Inc.
The airline rose 56 cents, or 4.2 percent, to $13.77 at 4:09 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares have gained 21 percent this year.