NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The International Association of Machinists dropped an effort to organize flight attendants at Delta (DAL - Get Report), three months after announcing it had signatures from 60% of the work group.
The union said Monday that it had withdrawn the election application it submitted Jan. 13 to the National Mediation Board and that it will wait a required 12 months before filing again.
"Unfortunately, we have recently discovered that a number of the cards submitted to us contain insufficient information or questionable signatures," the IAM said in a posting on its Web site www.iamdelta.net. "By our calculation, the number of questionable cards makes our showing of interest borderline.
"Rather than waiting months for a determination by the NMB, we believe the best course of action is to avoid further delay and withdraw our current application, renew our organizing drive and file again 12 months from the date of the dismissal of our application, as is permitted by law," the union said.
Delta has about 20,000 flight attendants. The union said in January that it had submitted nearly 12,000 signed election request cards from Delta's flight attendants to the NMB. The NMB's minimum requirement for calling an election is 50% of the prospective bargaining unit.
A Delta executive acknowledged the IAM withdrawal in a three-paragraph message to flight attendants on Monday.
The withdrawal "appears to validate the many concerns raised by many of you when the IAM filed for the election on Jan. 13," wrote Allison Ausband, Delta's senior vice president of in-flight service.
"Once the NMB formally dismisses the application, that would mean there's not going to be a representation election and no union could file an application to represent you for one year," Ausband wrote.
"Regardless of your position on IAM representation, please be respectful of one another and stay focused on our customers as we wait for closure on this important topic," she concluded.
The IAM appears to have been swimming against the tide when it sought to represent the flight attendants.
Delta historically has been non-union except for pilots and dispatchers. Following the 2010 merger with Northwest, which had strong representation, unions sought to retain their spots. But Delta staged an aggressive anti-union campaign.
In three elections late in 2010, about 51% of flight attendants turned down the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), about 52% of fleet service workers rejected IAM representation, and about 69% of customer service workers also rejected the IAM.
Earlier, AFA failed to organize Delta flight attendants in 2002 and 2008, although the union got closer in each of three elections.
The withdrawal came just four days after the union charged, in a posting on the www.iamdelta.net Web site, that a flight attendant survey had been hacked.
"After an exhaustive investigation conducted by the IAM, it is apparent that last month's IAM Delta flight attendant survey was compromised," the posting said. "As the survey was launched, so was an orchestrated campaign to sabotage it. Thousands of surveys were completed without one question answered -- they were just clicked through and submitted fraudulently.
"The only way to take the survey for another person was to know their last name and employee number," the posting said. "Only persons with access to this information could do this."
An IAM spokesman said the union is reviewing its next step, but declined to comment further.