ATLANTA (Reuters) - Baggage handlers at Delta Air Lines Inc have rejected unionization by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the carrier said on Thursday.
The voting result for ramp and cargo workers marked the second major victory for Delta in union-organizing drives this month. A majority of flight attendants opted not to unionize in balloting that ended on November 3.
The National Mediation Board, which conducted the elections, said 5,569 fleet service workers at Delta voted for no representation, while 5,024 voted for representation by a union, including 4,909 votes for the machinists union. There were 10,593 valid votes counted of the 13,104 eligible voters, the federal agency reported.
Votes among three big worker groups were set at Delta this fall to determine whether thousands at the carrier would be represented by unions following the 2008 acquisition of Northwest Airlines.
Delta's customer service agents, a group that numbers about 16,000, are currently voting to decide whether the machinists union will represent them. The results of a union election for stock clerks, a group of about 700 workers, is due to be announced next week.
In a statement, the machinists union said it was investigating charges of "widespread illegal election interference" by Delta. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA also alleged Delta managers interfered in the vote that was held for the carrier's 20,000 flight attendants.
Delta said in a statement on Thursday it believes the machinists union has no basis for filing interference claims, but added it would not be able to start aligning pay, benefits and work rules for all ramp and cargo workers until a final resolution.
"Whether voting under old rules or an entirely new voting process, Delta people have decided to preserve the Delta culture," the carrier said in a statement.
Delta, the world's second-biggest airline behind United Continental Holdings Inc, was largely nonunion before it purchased Northwest Airlines and incorporated thousands of union workers. The carrier's pilots have long been represented by the Air Line Pilots Association.
A landmark change in federal law in 2010 that allows outcomes to be based solely on votes cast was believed to enhance the odds for unions to prevail in organizing elections at U.S. airlines and rail carriers.
That change, sought by a unit of the AFL-CIO labor federation, reversed the long-standing previous policy that required a majority of an entire work group to approve unionization, effectively counting those who did not cast ballots as "no" votes.
Delta shares were up 55 cents, or 4.2 percent, at $13.76 in late afternoon trading.
(Reporting by Karen Jacobs; editing by Gerald E. McCormick and Andre Grenon)