Earlier this week, the International Association of Machinists abruptly withdrew its application to hold an election in an attempt to unionize Delta Air Lines’ 20,000 flight attendants. In announcing its withdrawal, the union stated that its reason was due to “a number of the cards submitted…contain insufficient information or questionable signatures.”
What the union did not say, however, is that its withdrawal was due to what appeared to have been fradulent signatures (also known as forgery) and that the matter has been referred the Department of Justice, according to a letter from the National Mediation Board—the agency that enforces labor law in the airline and railroad industries.
In the agency’s letter (below) to both Delta Air Lines and the IAM, the National Mediation Board’s General Counsel, Mary L. Johnson wrote:
The Board has reason to believe that some unknown person or persons knowingly submitted authorization cards with fraudulent signatures in possible violation of federal law.
Further on, she wrote stated:
The integrity of the NMB’s election process also relies on each individual employee only submitting an authorization card that he or she personally signed and dated for presentation to the NMB. The NMB’s election process has not been respected in this case. In view of these circumstances, the Board has decided to refer the matter to the appropriate office of the United States Department of Justice for further review. [Emphasis added]
In most union organizing campaigns, even when they involve “volunteer” internal organizers (i.e., employees), a union’s lead organizers usually instruct their underlings to obtain actual signatures from employees—not forgeries.
Given that the Machinists union filed its application claiming that it had signed cards from 60% (which is 12,000) of the 20,000 flight attendants, one can be fairly certain that the amount of “fraudulent signatures” was more than a mere handful.
This, then, begs answers to several questions:
- Were the Machinists organizers aware there were signatures being forged?
- Were the Machinists organizers involved in the forgery?
- If not, do the Machinists organizers know who committed the fraud?
- If so, will the Machinists organizers reveal to the Justice Department’s investigators who committed the fraud?
- Will the Machinists union provide defense attorneys to those accused of committing the fraud–even if they are not IAM employees, but Delta’s employees (even though they may have been paid by the IAM to gather signatures)?
Delta Air Lines was pleased that the matter is being referred to the Justice Department, the airline said in a press release.
“There is nothing more important than our people and our culture,” said Richard Anderson, chief executive officer. “We respect the integrity of the NMB’s election process and fully support the DOJ investigation so our people can know the full truth.”
“We are very encouraged that this matter has been referred to the DOJ,” said Joanne Smith, Delta’s executive vice president and chief human resources officer. “At the time of the IAM filing in January, many flight attendants were raising questions regarding the validity of the authorization cards the IAM submitted to the NMB.”