Federal labor regulators said on Wednesday that they'll investigate a close election at Delta Air Lines that kept a flight attendant's union out.
The National Mediation Board could ultimately order a re-vote, or dismiss the union's complaint.
The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA lost the election in November, with 51 percent of votes coming in against the union. The AFA had represented Northwest flight attendants before Delta bought Northwest in 2008. Delta flight attendants had not been in a union.
The union claimed Delta illegally intimidated workers, with constant reminders to vote, and anti-union DVDs playing in crew lounges. Delta said it was just reminding workers that they needed to vote if they wanted their voice to be heard. Delta also said AFA pestered flight attendants to find out how they voted, and that those who voted against the union were harassed.
AFA also complained that Delta had blocked it from discussing the vote with flight attendants in hotel lobbies in Amsterdam and Tokyo, where the airline has hubs. Delta said flight attendants had complained about harassment by the union at hotels, and that the hotels enforced their own policies against uninvited solicitation.
The National Mediation Board said on Wednesday that an investigator would do interviews and an on-site investigation.
"You have to prove a substantial case in order to conduct an investigation, so this is a big victory for us," said Veda Shook, president of the Association of Flight Attendants.
Flight attendants who came from Northwest continue to work under their old contract, including pay rates. Flight attendants who were originally from Delta have gotten raises. Delta has said Northwest workers will get raises once the representation issue is settled.
Delta said it is disappointed by the decision to investigate the election.
"We continue to believe that the AFA's claims are without merit, and if the NMB follows decades of past precedent, they will dismiss the allegations and uphold the election results," Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin said.
Atlanta-based Delta is the nation's second-largest airline by traffic. Only its pilots are unionized, which is unusual in the airline industry, where organized labor has traditionally had a strong hold. Unions also lost votes last year among baggage handlers, ticket agents, and other ground workers.
Associated Press Writer Sam Hananel in Washington contributed to this report.