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Delta: New Rules Mustn't Muddle Votes

ATLANTA (TheStreet) -- The National Mediation Board is moving to make it easier for unions to organize, even as Delta (DAL) faces the most critical union elections in its history.

In a notice of proposed rulemaking that will be posted on Monday, the NMB will suggest a shift in voting in union elections, so that unions need only win a majority of the votes cast to win an election. Presently, unions must win a majority of all those eligible to vote.

Labor has been seeking the change for decades. It now appears possible because Democrats control Congress as well as the White House. Two of the three NMB members must come from the sitting president's party.

For Delta, which has been largely union-free for decades, the timing could prove unfortunate. A 2008 merger with heavily unionized Northwest means that two major airline unions are seeking elections that will determine whether tens of thousands of Delta employees have representation.

Whatever is happening at the NMB, it should not slow down the Delta elections, the airline said Friday. "Regardless of what happens with the rule change proposal, there are pending Delta applications being delayed," said spokeswoman Gina Laughlin. "There's no reason for that delay. The applications should continue under the rules that existed at the time they were filed."

Laughlin said Delta workers want the matter resolved. Currently, the airline can have two people "doing identical jobs, but with different pay rates, different benefits and different work rules," she said. Until representation issues are resolved, the rules cannot be equalized.

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