ATLANTA ( TheStreet) -- The International Association of Machinists says it is ready for union representation elections at Delta ( DAL). Delta says to bring it on. The IAM said Thursday it is filing with the National Mediation Board for rulings that will lead to union representation for more than 30,000 workers. "The election process will give Delta workers an opportunity to determine their future," said Robert Roach Jr., IAM general vice president, in a prepared statement. "Delta employees deserve to be represented by an organization whose sole purpose is to protect workers."
The move follows a federal judge's ruling on Friday, upholding a May NMB ruling that a union requires support from a majority of those who vote in a representation election, rather than from a majority of eligible voters. Delta had been the primary opponent of the change, because it makes a pro-union vote more likely -- although far from certain -- following a 2008 merger with Northwest. The election would be a historic event in the airline industry, pitting the largest airline union against the only major airline that is largely union-free. The IAM represented thousands of Northwest workers and faces the prospect that it could lose them. "Our employees have been waiting for the opportunity to make a decision about whether or not to have IAM representation for more than 20 months since our merger took place," said Delta spokeswoman Gina Laughlin, in a prepared statement. "We're pleased that time is finally here." It remains to be seen whether the Air Transport Association will appeal the federal judge's ruling. The group is "still reviewing the court's decision," said spokesman David Castelveter. ATA went to court last month to appeal the NMB ruling, but lost on Friday. Eleven ATA members participated in the appeal, but others including American ( AMR), UPS ( UPS) and Southwest ( LUV) sat it out. As a first step to calling for an election, the IAM asked the NMB to issue "single carrier" rulings for Delta's fleet service and passenger service groups, establishing that Delta and Northwest are operating as one group for representation purposes. The union said it is still investigating whether stock clerks and office and clerical workers are operating as one group. -- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.