Should union election rules be changed for airlines?

One of the most vexing problems in corporate mergers is melding the work force.

Over time, it has become an especially trying task in the airline industry, with a wide variety of labor skills, thorny seniority issues and different levels of unionization.

Delta’s merger with Northwest is proving to be no exception, AJC reporter Kelly Yamanouchi writes.

Add a new issue to all the normal problems of combining a largely non-union carrier (Delta) with a heavily unionized one (Northwest ) — a proposed change in the voting rules that could affect the union representation elections of flight attendants and ground workers.

A switch in the election rules to a “yes-no” vote, as proposed, would mean that instead of needing approval from a majority of those eligible to vote in order to unionize, unions would only need a majority of those who actually vote, Yamounchi writes. That is generally is a far smaller number.

Airline workers are governed by different rules than most other workers, who already only need a majority of votes cast to gain union representation.

The proposed change for airline workers comes about because of the political change in the White House. A nomination by President Barack Obama to the National Mediation Board, which governs airline union issues, shifted the political balance there to a more labor-friendly majority.

So should the rules be changed now?

20 comments Add your comment


November 16th, 2009
11:07 am


November 16th, 2009
11:35 am

There goes Delta. Another airline brought down by unions.


November 16th, 2009
12:05 pm

Oldtimer, No unions have brought down any airlines. Bad management is responsible as has been proven by Carl Ichan and Frank Lorenzo. You can use Eastern and Pan Am as examples all you want but nobody ever looks at Southwest. Southwest is the heaviest organized airline in the country and they have been very successful. Their idea is that everyone has contracts that spell out their wages, working conditions, and benefits so that they can spend their days working on customer service. They don’t have anywhere near as a high of a percentage of management vs. worker and their management receive fair compensation compared to the outrageous salaries of the other carriers. In addition, everyone enjoys company stock and is able to work together compared to the other carriers. It’s about time the voting rules change in airline union elections. Why should they be any different than any other election in this country, including union elections in other industries? Delta’s growing in leaps and bounds and rushing into and out of cities just like Braniff did, if things go bad will you still blame the “unions”? The unions are the employees, not some 3rd party rushing in to take over. There is NO reason why the unions and management can’t work together for a common goal, to run a great airline. The managers at these airlines run from one carrier to the next with their big huge golden parachutes, why shouldn’t the employees who make one airline their career be able to protect their investment?


November 16th, 2009
12:05 pm

I agree with oldtimer. Bye bye Delta. Delta really is Northwest now anyway. Have you seen their management team? Unions will kill this airline.


November 16th, 2009
12:16 pm

I believe Delta compensates its non-union employees better than the represented employees that were NW. Now if the employee group wants to have a level of representation between them and management they can. I just don’t understand why they would give up thier money to have someone else represent them, who may or may not, do this better than Delta’s management has.


November 16th, 2009
12:36 pm

It’s odd that a Delta pilots union is okay but a flight attendant union is not okay? There should be protection for all employees.


November 16th, 2009
12:43 pm

Are you referring to the protection the pilots received when they lost their retirement?


November 16th, 2009
1:21 pm

The solution is simple… if you don’t want to be represented by a union at your workplace, vote NO! If you don’t vote, don’t complain.

Cooperative communication between management and rank and file, along with some actual LEADERSHIP (kudos to present DL mgmt – - they are light years better than the band of clowns, i.e., Leo, Ron et al, that infested the place previously), make far more difference in success/failure than whether a union is present.

Daniel Valdez

November 16th, 2009
1:34 pm

There has always been a cultural aversion to unions in the South , but it has been proven that unions have provided better pay, health/medical/retirement benefits and job protection . Management teams come and go like tornadoes at Delta and the employees always clean up after their mess thru pay cuts.


November 16th, 2009
2:03 pm

I just want my 5th week of vacation those $#@!%^$ took from me.

Clips – 11/16/2009 « AFA-CWA Clips

November 16th, 2009
2:44 pm


November 16th, 2009
2:48 pm

The myths about unions are just that – myths. Those who bad mouth unions simply do not understand the reality of unionization. The employees make up the union – there is no evil outside third party. Unions keep everyone honest since all parties have to work from the same rules. Employees feel a sense of security since their benefits and wages cannot be changed overnight without their approval, as has happened at Delta in the past to non-union workers many, many times. Unionized employees and management CAN work together to create an even better airline. Unions do not stop that from happening.


November 16th, 2009
2:51 pm

Nothing against changing the voting rules as long as de-certification is also made easier. When the time comes to vote – the burden will fall on both sides to “get out the vote”.

Much has been said and comparisons made with general elections in our country, but no one that makes this argument seems to also mention that with members of Congress they can be voted out every 2 years or 6 if they are in the Senate. Same with every other office that has term limits. It is extremely difficult to vote a union out. It takes years of card collecting. Also, it is improbable as most unions belong to the AFL-CIO and they will not encroach on each others territory. It would take an independent union to gain momentum and that is highly unlikely as an independent union brings little or no experience or more important the financial backing that it takes to run a successful card signing campaign.

Nothing against unionization either. However a concern with a union at Delta would be the drastic change in culture that will occur at the airline. Although a cooperative relationship is possible, it will be highly unlikely as the NWA folks bring with them years of baggage and negative experiences with their management. They will enter negotiations rattling their collective sabers and demanding what the company cannot possibly grant in terms of compensation and other benefits. A new relationship of “us vs. them” will prevail and customer service will suffer. This alone will jump start the decline of Delta in the eyes of its customers.

Whether you are for the union or against – it will be a given that the Delta we know will cease to exist once it is unionized.


November 16th, 2009
10:45 pm

It’s all a matter that The union officers are only concerned with keeping their Soft jobs while doing NOTHING……..Delta has Always Treated their employees Better then any Union can , and has had a better relationship with their employees then most Unionized carriers…It’s easy for union ’s to say “It’s the Management that caused the downfall, without admitting to slowdown . strikes ….The change in the rules is nothing more then “True Socialism” being brought in by Union leaders who have always been in bed with the Demoncrats
Example AFL_CIO at GM getting 20 billion for their pot , while risk takers, like Bond holders which include many, many blue collar retirement funds got an empty bag True Socialism , do what you can to deny management…..Why is OK for a minority of votes to rule over the majority ? That happens in Mother Russia ……..The problem with unions is that there are too many slackers while dedicated employees do all the work..,,I’ve been there , I’ve been on both sides….I hope the courts find the need for the US transportation industry to maintain the current rules in effect since 1934 because they WORK……..If this disaster of a rule change happens there needs to be the same policy to get rid of the unions .

Fast Eddie

November 16th, 2009
11:25 pm

“Whether you are for the union or against – it will be a given that the Delta we know will cease to exist once it is unionized.”

…so be it.

james yarbrough

November 17th, 2009
12:33 pm

Changing the voting rules clearly seems like it has nothing to do with actually helping employees but has everything to do with election payback for the vast contributions Unions gave to political candidates.

Jimmy Hoffa

November 17th, 2009
10:29 pm

lets name highly successful companies still in business that are heavily unionized. i will start us off…


Fast Eddie

November 18th, 2009
2:48 am

Southwest Airlines & UPS

Tax Problems

November 23rd, 2009
2:57 pm

Why do I get the feeling that this is going to be another mess? The airline industry only exists becasue of government bailouts and union concessions. Is it too much to expect a fulltime job to include benefits?


December 11th, 2009
8:57 pm

Yes, yes, YES!!!!