Today, the National Mediation Board rule changing how votes are counted in union elections for airline workers went into effect. Not wasting any time, three unions have already sought votes for employee groups at two different airlines: Delta and Atlantic Southeast Airlines (ASA). See the stories here and here.

The elections at Delta will be massive. The Association of Flight Attendants wants to organize all of the flight attendants in the combined Northwest/Delta operation. There are nearly 21,000 employees who could be eligible to vote in that election. The International Association of Machinists seeks to organize customer service agents and ramp workers, groups which number 16,500 and 14,000 respectively. The election at ASA is sought by the Teamsters and focuses on 570 mechanics and related employees.

These efforts are instructive for the labor relations professional in at least two respects:

  • First, union organizing efforts can consume a substantial amount of time and resources. The ASA drive has lasted at least two years, and it isn’t over yet.
  • Second, issues such as respect, having a voice, and pay can sustain union organizing drives. These are issues that have surfaced both in the ASA campaign as well as the Machinists’ campaign at Delta.