Flight attendants at Delta Air Lines have rejected union representation for a third time during the last ten years.
Of the 18,760 employees casting ballots, 53% voted against being represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA. Atlanta-based Delta employs roughly 20,000 flight attendants.
AFA's two previous attempts to unionise Delta's flight attendants were earlier this decade prior to the close of Delta's merger with Northwest Airlines. Prior to the merger, Delta was mostly non-union while Northwest was heavily unionised.
The is the first major union representation election since the National Mediation Board earlier this year ushered in a significant change in how union representation at US airlines are conducted. Representation is now granted if a prospective union wins the majority of votes cast, rather than securing a majority of an affected workgroup.
AFA says it plans to issue interference charges against Delta management for "their illegal and unfair methods to sway the vote", contending the carrier "overwhelmed flight attendants with heavy handed intimidation and coercion of voters".
Delta in a statement says if interference claims are filed the carrier cannot start aligning pay, benefits and work rules for flight attendants until a final resolution is achieved.
"We are anxious to complete our integration and move forward as soon as possible," says Delta senior vice president of in-flight service Joanne Smith. "We have said we respect our flight attendants' choice. We urge the AFA to show that same respect."
Delta still has several other workgroups in various phases of voting for union representation. An election for representation of Delta's 14,000 fleet service workers by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) began on 14 October and ends on 18 November. Roughly 16,400 passenger service employees started casting ballots for or against IAM representation on 2 November, and voting continues through 7 December.
After the NMB issued the new rules governing union elections at airlines, Delta and other US carriers were unsuccessful in a legal challenge of the new voting procedures. During an interview with ATI and Flightglobal in August carrier chief executive Richard Anderson said Delta would respect the new voting process. But he also highlighted the partisan framework that governed the rule change, warning that it sets a precedent that "the rules can change at the whim of whoever is in office. I think that when the Republican party gets back into power things are going to change again".
At that time Anderson said regardless of the outcome of the union representation campaigns, "we won't allow whatever happens to change the way we treat our people. It won't slow down our pace and it won't slow down our focus on doing what is right for our employees".