Ashton Therrel

In November of last year, Delta Flight Attendants voted against unionization. This was the third time in the past decade that the employees of Delta have defeated the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA).

We defeated the attempt to unionize Delta despite a playing field that had been deliberately tilted in favor of the unions. The National Mediation Board (NMB) is a government entity that most have never heard of that oversees union elections for airlines and railroads. In 2009, the NMB issued a rule change on how union elections are held for airlines and railroads, which they clearly hoped would tilt the elections in favor of the union. The rule change was directly requested by the AFL-CIO in a private letter to this board in September 2009. The new rule permits a majority of those who vote rather than the majority of the workforce in an airline or railroad union election to determine whether or not a class or craft will be represented by a union.

The new rule was a significant change to the previous one, which was in effect for nearly 80 years – from the Roosevelt Administration to the present -- and required a majority of the entire class or craft to support union representation in order for a union to be certified. The new rule now means that of a workforce of 20,000, if only 5000 employees vote and 2501 vote for a union, those 2501 employees would determine the election outcome for the 20,000 employees.

Fortunately, there is some hope that this effort to unfairly tilt the playing field will be corrected by Congress reasserting its authority rather than allowing unionization by regulation. Recently, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted on an FAA reauthorization bill which included a provision (Title IX of the bill) that would simply restore the union election rules for rail and airlines that were in place at the National Mediation Board for over 75 years under Republican and Democrat Administrations alike. Efforts to strike this provision restoring the longstanding rules in committee were defeated. The previous election rules had a long and bipartisan history supported by important policy considerations to keep our key infrastructure operating without disruption.

Ashton Therrel

Ashton Therrel is an Atlanta-based flight attendant.