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Delta Flight Attendants’ Rights Trampled by Republican-Controlled Mediation Board

Date: December 12, 2002

Supposedly Independent Board Shows Blatant Partisanship

WASHINGTON, DC –-In a shameful and contradictory decision, the National Mediation Board ignored precedent and the facts, rewrote the rules of company interference and issued a purely political decision to deny Delta Air Lines flight attendants the right to participate in a free and fair union election.

Board member Harry Hoglander stated in a rare dissenting opinion, “In their decision today, the Board majority fails to explain that their decision is a significant departure from Board precedent. In an attempt to justify and accept conduct which unquestionably ‘tainted laboratory conditions,’ the Board majority states they are ‘troubled’ and ‘disturbed’ by Delta’s conduct. The majority’s decision now creates a gray area of legally allowable conduct: that which is ‘troubling,’ but does not constitute interference. I am at a loss to understand this tortured reasoning.”

In October 2001 the Board issued a preliminary finding of a prima facie case of interference by Delta. To reinforce the case, AFA filed hundreds of additional charges of interference made by Delta flight attendants against the company.

The decision handed down today is a 180-degree turn from the Board’s preliminary decision. However, since 2001, political control of the Board has shifted with the appointment of two new Republican members this past summer, to reflect the anti-worker republican agenda championed by the White House.

While the finding of facts in the Delta case clearly warranted a new election, the NMB created a new rule to benefit Delta Air Lines and denied the workers a new election. By deciding to limit the investigation to the one-year period preceding the election, the Board in effect nullified a significant amount of evidence that led to the prima facie finding.

“This decision makes it official, corporate America owns and operates Washington, DC,” said the Association of Flight Attendants International President Patricia Friend. “Those in the government who are paid with our tax dollars to protect worker rights, have failed us. It appears this Board lacks any independence whatsoever and is, instead, in lockstep with the White House’s pro-corporation agenda.”

Delta silenced flight attendants’ voices through a campaign of fear and intimidation that was wholly un-American. Most reprehensibly, the airline used the fear and uncertainty that came after the September 11 terrorist attacks to label union supporters as anti-Delta and un-American.

Delta touts its ‘family atmosphere’ and promise that it puts ‘employees first’ in the media. But Delta hasn’t been delivering on its promises. Management has laid off workers, changed the terms of voluntary furloughs after the furloughs had taken place, failed to hold recalls in seniority order, changed the pension plan to a cash-balance plan, which will mean significantly reduced pensions for thousands of Delta flight attendants, closed flight attendant bases and developed a plan for a low-cost airline where flight attendants could be forced to work longer hours for less pay -- all without input from their non-union workers.

Without a union, the Delta flight attendants have no voice in the future of their airline or the rapid changes that are taking place across the airline industry. With the potential for significantly more layoffs as the industry continues to struggle, and the real possibility of management imposed pay cuts, Delta flight attendants need a voice more than ever.

With close to 20,000 flight attendants involved, the Delta vote was the largest private-sector union election in more than 30 years. Delta is the only major U.S. air carrier whose flight attendants do not have union representation.

Almost 50,000 flight attendants at 26 carriers have joined together to form AFA, the largest flight attendant union in the world. Visit us @ www.afanet.org.

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