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Most Delta Flight Attendants Skip Union Vote

Of the 13,380 flight attendants eligible to vote, only 5,306 -- about 40% -- did so.

The Association of Flight Attendants has failed in its bid to unionize flight attendants at


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Of the 13,380 flight attendants eligible to vote, only 5,306 -- about 40% -- did so. A union victory in the National Mediation Board representation election would have required that a majority of those eligible participate, and that the union get most of the votes cast.

"Our flight attendants rejected the AFA by a very sound margin," Joanne Smith, senior vice president of Delta's in-flight service division, told reporters on a conference call. "We believe the direct relationship we have is the best relationship."

Smith said Delta told its flight attendants that "the only sure way to vote 'no' was to not vote at all," and said the carrier assumes that all those who voted were in support of the union.

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The union said it will file formal interference charges with the NMB by June 6 because Delta unfairly sought to prevent attendants from voting. "They had a voter-suppression campaign," said AFA spokeswoman Corey Caldwell. "They wallpapered the crew rooms with messages that encouraged flight attendants not to participate, and they sent DVDs and e-mails. It interferes with the right to have a free and fair election."

Smith said Delta sought to inform its flight attendants of the truth, and to counteract inaccuracies that were circulated by the union.

The loss may not mean the end of AFA efforts to unionize Delta, because another vote will likely follow if a merger occurs between Delta and



. Northwest has 9,000 unionized flight attendants.

"Delta flight attendants took the next big step toward gaining a voice and a union contract," said Pat Friend, AFA-CWA international president, in a prepared statement. "A larger portion of the Delta workforce than ever before voted for union representation. Those supporters, combined with strong union support at Northwest, will clearly be enough for the flight attendants to win union representation after the merger with Northwest is finalized."

In 2002, Delta flight attendants also rejected the AFA, which won 29% of the vote. Looking ahead to an election involving Northwest, NMB rules provide that when a nonunion work group merges with a union group, an election is held if 35% of the combined workforce has union representation or signs a union card, according to the AFA.