Thursday, October 02, 2008

NMB dismisses claims that Delta Air Lines interfered with union certification election

National Mediation Board sealThe flight attendant profession suffered an insulting blow this week when the U.S. National Mediation Board (NMB) dismissed charges by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) that Delta Air Lines management illegally interfered with a union certification election earlier this year. The NMB, which is the federal agency charged with protecting the rights of workers in the U.S. transportation industry, apparently has decided to turn a blind eye to alleged union busting activities instead of properly investigating the charges. In a 2-1 vote, the three-member Board "determined that the AFA failed to state a prima facie case of interference."

When the intended merger between Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines was announced nearly six months ago, the collective bargaining rights of the "new" airline's flight attendants immediately became an issue of serious concern. Northwest Airlines flight attendants are represented by the AFA, while Delta's flight attendants have never been unionized. Once the merger is complete, Northwest's flight attendants risk losing their currently held right to participate, through collective bargaining, in decisions about issues and policies that affect them directly.

Delta's management team has been, and continues to be, openly opposed to unionization, instead pursuing a paternalistic policy of telling workers what is best for them. This stance was demonstrated during the recent election to certify the AFA as the collective bargaining unit for Delta's flight attendants. For example, during the voting period, signs were posted in flight attendants' crew lounges urging them to tear up their ballots and voting information before even bothering to read about their rights. It was tactics such as this that prompted the AFA to file election interference charges with the NMB. Now it appears that, instead of protecting workers' rights, the NMB has chosen to be complicit in suppressing them.

In a statement to the press regarding the NMB's refusal to investigate the charges presented to the Board by the AFA, the union's International President, Pat Friend, said, "In yet another failure of a government regulatory agency to hold a corporation accountable, the NMB refused to investigate any of the numerous allegations of misconduct by Delta management.

"Despite very specific and an overwhelming number of instances of management intimidation and interference with the right of employees to join a union, the majority of the NMB decided to accept Delta management’s denial of having done any of the things their flight attendants witnessed," Friend continued.

"This NMB has forgotten its stated mission: to promote and protect effective collective bargaining and representation; and has once again sided with corporate America to deny workers the right to a voice in their workplace. It is long past time to hold this agency accountable for their support of the corporate agenda," said Friend.

For the record, it should be noted that the dissenting member of the three-member NMB, Harry Hoglander stated that he "believes[s] [AFA] has established a prima facie case of election interference and that the [NMB] should conduct an investigation." Additionally Mr. Hoglander finds that "the dismissal by the Majority of the Board of the Association of Flight Attendants’ allegations of well over four score incidents of interference without an investigation sets the wrong precedent. The premise being that if these allegations were true they might reasonably have tainted the laboratory conditions necessary for an election."

Thank you Mr. Hoglander.