Sore Union Losers at Delta Air Lines

There’s big money at stake for unions at Delta Air Lines, Inc—over $22 million in annual union dues. As the only (primarily) union-free major airline (Delta’s pilots are unionized), unions have long targeted the Atlanta-based carrier.  However, now, with the National Mediation Board members being controlled by unions*, as well as Delta’s recent merger with unionized Northwest Airlines, the unions have declared it open hunting season on Delta. So far, however, the unions have lost eight out of the eight elections they’ve called for—and now are going to rely on the union-controlled NMB to overturn the results so they can hold rerun elections.


Delta Air Lines Inc. TechOps Stores workers on Monday became the eighth worker group at the airline to reject union overtures.

The nearly 700 workers, which handle the airline’s parts, rejected representation by the International Association of Machinists (IAM). There were 607 votes cast — 439 “no” votes, only 166 votes for IAM and two write-in votes, Delta (NYSE: DAL) reported. There were 673 eligible voters.

“This is the eighth work group in which representation was resolved since Delta’s merger, resulting in no union for the more than 41,000 employees in these groups,” said Mike Campbell, executive vice president of HR and Labor Relations, in a statement. “We urge the IAM and AFA to respect our people’s choice and the will of the majority. Delta people have patiently waited two years to have their pay, benefits, work rules, and seniority aligned. It’s time to move forward.”

Unfortunately for the Delta workers who voted not to become unionized, the unions don’t appear to be respecting the will of the majority.

With two out of the three members of the National Mediation Board being former union officials (*see below), union bosses are banking on being able to overturn the election results and get new elections ordered.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) has already charged that Delta interfered with the TechOps Stores elections last week, and is also “investigating” an election involving 13,000 Delta Fleet Service workers, the large majority of whom also rejected the IAM two weeks ago.


In addition, after 53% of Delta’s flight attendants voted against representation by the Association of Flight Attendants (or AFA-CWA)—for the third time in less than ten years—the AFA-CWA has also filed charges with the NMB with the expectation that their union friends at the agency will give them a new election.

What is also at stake is the freedom to choose whether or not to pay union dues—especially for those Delta employees who live in Right to Work states. Under the Railway Labor Act, there are no “right to work” provisions in the airline industry. This means that if the unions succeed at unionizing Delta, all 41,000 workers could be required to pay union dues, or be fired from their jobs. At $45 per month, the unions stand to rake in $1,845,000 each and every month (not to mention initiation fees for new hires), or more than $22 million each year.

Moreoever, once they become unionized, unlike the National Labor Relations Act, there are no provisions in the Railway Labor Act to decertify unions—so the unions’ ability to keep Delta’s employees as cash cows will likely be permanent.

Unless and until Delta workers resoundingly reject the union attacks, they’d better get used to the idea of these born sore losers continuing to target them.


* The National Mediation Board (which governs labor relations in the airline and railroad industries) is an independent agency comprised of three members. Two of these members are former union officials:Linda Puchala is the former president of the Association of Flight Attendants, as well as a former staff director for AFSCME.  Harry Hoglander is a former Executive Vice President of the Air Line Pilots Association.


In May, the union-controlled NMB changed the 75-year old practice on how airline and railroad elections are conducted, making it easier to unionize workers in those industries.


“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.”  Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776


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