The incoming Obama administration and the Democratic majority in the House and Senate have just about eliminated any question about whether non-union Delta workers will prevail over their unionized counterparts from Northwest as the airlines merge. Unions will undoubtedly prevail.
The environment for workforces across the country will be pro-labor with a government that will encourage organizing and probably favor union shops as it shapes the economic landscape. Experts feel that overall personnel costs will not rise enough to place airlines in danger.
Union machinations will, however, cast a shadow over the pending Delta/Northwest merger. Questions about the merger of pilot unions and the introduction of unions into the formerly non-union shops of Delta will change corporate culture and dramatically change the former Delta employee/management equations.
At a national level, guaranteed changes in the National Mediation Board, now dominated by Republicans and soon to be switched to the Democrats, will shift mediation in favor of the unions as well.
We will keep close eye on these workforce questions that will directly affect airline service as Northwest is absorbed by Delta over the coming months. The first big decisions will be coming in early December when a decision is expected from an arbitration hearing that will determine pilot seniority issues.
Get ready for fireworks. Merging airlines, fleets, maintenance and schedules is easy compared to merging unions. Ask the pilots of ex-America West and US Airways.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past 14 years with Congress, the Department of Transportation, and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the first consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.