ALPA represents pilots at both carriers, so eventually their two locals will become one. Other groups have union representation at Northwest, but not at Delta, meaning elections will determine whether representation continues.

The largest airline union, the International Association of Machinists, represents Northwest agents and ground service workers, and will seek an election at Delta. The IAM would also seek to organize mechanics if workers produce enough signature cards.

"All we are asking for is a fair and equitable opportunity to present our case to the people at Delta," says Robert Roach, IAM general vice president. "We believe President Obama will appoint a new board member and the board will provide that ."

Roach said the NMB chose not to review election challenges by the Association of Flight Attendants, after a recent bid to organize Delta flight attendants failed. "It's very unusual not to investigate a protest," he said. "How do you know whether it's valid, if you do not investigate?"

A change at the NMB will directly impact the AFA, which is seeking representation elections at several airlines, says union spokeswoman Corey Caldwell. Often, a key issue in flight-attendant elections is voter eligibility. For instance, in a 2007 election at Northwest subsidiary Compass, the union sought an election for about three dozen flight attendants, while the carrier wanted a delay to allow flight attendants in training classes to vote.

The NMB extended the cutoff date for eligibility, and the union lost the election. "They waited several months," Caldwell said. "A fresh face is needed at the NMB."

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