No Interference in Delta Election, Says Labor Board

JOSHUA FREED | AP Airlines Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Delta Air Lines did not interfere in an election where baggage handlers rejected a union, a federal labor board ruled Wednesday.

Delta said the decision clears the way to line up the pay and benefits of baggage handlers who came from Northwest Airlines, which Delta bought in 2008.

Delta’s hub at Memphis International Airport is a former Northwest hub.

At Northwest, baggage handlers were represented by the International Association of Machinists. At Delta, they did not belong to a union.

In a vote a year ago, 54 percent of the 10,593 voting workers in the combined group rejected the union.

The IAM claimed Delta had interfered by allowing voting on company computers, which it could monitor, and that airline supervisors made it difficult for pro-union workers to discuss the vote with their colleagues.

The National Mediation Board interviewed workers and managers around the country. It said Delta had encouraged workers to vote from home, but made company computers available if workers wanted to use them. And it said that any manager interference or increased presence was minor and did not amount to a "systematic effort to monitor the IAM's activities."

Except for pilots and flight dispatchers, Delta was non-union when it bought Northwest, where all the front-line workers were represented. Unions have lost all the votes to determine whether they would represent the combined groups, although pilots and flight dispatchers remain unionized.

The national mediation board is still looking into IAM claims of interference in an election for ticket counter and gate agents, reservations workers, and some cargo workers. Last month the board found that Delta also did not interfere when flight attendants narrowly rejected the Association of Flight Attendants.

Delta has said that the election disputes are the reason it has not been able to align pay, benefits, and work rules between the workers who came from Delta and those who came from Northwest. As each group's interference claim has been resolved, Delta has moved to integrate the two groups.

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