The Pretense of Obama's 'Other' Labor Board's Investigation of Delta

Let’s cut to the chase, shall we? Within the next several months (perhaps sooner), the odds are President Obama’s National Mediation Board will find that Delta Air committed unforgivable sins during multiple union election campaigns last fall, causing the unions to lose the elections.  As a result, employees at Delta will be subjected to more union elections until they—in the minds of union bosses—vote the right way (to unionize). It doesn’t matter what the facts are—Delta’s conduct could have been as pure as virgin snow—the NMB will rule that (at least several) of the elections must be rerun.


Why? Because that is the goal and has been the goal all along (at least since 2009). In other words, the NMB “investigations” into Delta’s conduct is nothing more than a show—a sham—a kangaroo court in the vein of Fidel Castro’s trials of political opponents before the firing squads.

Following last November’s defeat of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA) attempt at unionizing Delta’s flight attendants (the third union failure in ten years), the AFA-CWA filed “interference” charges against the airline, alleging the carrier improperly influenced flight attendants decision. The Machinists union (which is currently in a pitched battle against the AFA-CWA at United) also alleged interference in the elections it lost at Delta.  In all, unions lost at least nine known elections at Delta in 2009.

Not surprisingly, the NLRB’s counterpart for the airline and railroad industries, the National Mediation Board, declared last week that it would ‘investigate’ allegations from the flight attendants union

After combing through hundreds of pages of written arguments and testimony from the AFA and Delta, the NMB said Wednesday it will carry out an on-site inquiry at the airline to further investigate the interference allegations.

“After reviewing the submissions provided by AFA and Delta, I find that in order for the board to determine whether the laboratory conditions were tainted, further investigation is needed,” Mary Johnson, the NMB’s general counsel, wrote in a letter to the AFA and Delta. The board declined to elaborate on its letter.


On Monday, the NMB announced it was expanding its investigation to include the Machinists’ failed elections.

The National Mediation Board is widening its probe into union allegations that Delta Air Lines Inc. interfered in a failed organizing drive last year, further heightening scrutiny of the big U.S. carrier and the federal agency that oversees it.

The federal agency on Monday notified Atlanta-based Delta, the world’s second-largest airline by traffic, and the International Association of Machinists that it will conduct on-site probes into whether the airline unfairly pressured about 30,000 ramp workers and gate and reservation agents to vote against unionization.

Like her controversial counterpart at the National Labor Relations Board, Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon, the NMB’s General Counsel serves as the agency’s prosecutor. Once If the General Counsel finds that Delta interfered with any of the elections, the three-member NMB panel will may order rerun elections.

Rerun elections should be expected. Not because Delta did anything wrong mind you, but because the NMB’s make up (like its NLRB counterparts) is comprised of a union majority.

The NMB’s Chairman, Harry Hoglander is the former president of the Air Line Pilots Association, and NMB member Linda Puchala (an Obama appointee) is the former president of the AFA-CWA. [The AFA-CWA is, obviously, involved but it is doubtful that Puchala will recuse herself from ruling for a rerun.]

As a backdrop to all of this is the NMB’s controversial change to the way in which airline and railroad elections are conducted. Since changing the rules in 2010 to make it easier to unionize, the NMB’s probable ordering of rerun elections will increase the likelihood that Delta will lose one or more of the elections. But, that was the plan all along, when the AFA-CWA withdrew their election bid in 2009 to await the rule change.


So, while the NMB goes through the motions of conducting an investigation, it’s conclusions are all but certain. It would be wishful thinking to resume the NMB would rule any other way but for the unions.


“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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