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Tue, Jun 12, 2007

NWA Flight Attendants Await Claim Payouts As Vote Is Questioned

Former PFAA Chief Alleges Improprieties

It took three tries and two unions before flight attendants at Northwest Airlines narrowly approved a new contract with the formerly bankrupt carrier... so why would anyone think things would get any easier now? Substantial payouts for the airline's 8,100 FA's are currently on hold, as their union investigates charges of voter fraud.

As ANN reported, members of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA voted May 29 to approve a third tentative agreement between the union and airline management. The contract was narrowly passed, with a mere 104 votes separating the yeas from the nays.

In exchange for pay cuts and other concessions under the contract, flight attendants were granted a one-time payment of approximately $15,000 per person, after attendants sold their claim against Northwest. That money was to be paid to the attendants by June 18... but allegations of miscounted votes has thrown a wrench into those plans.

The Associated Press reports problems first popped up during the final day of voting, as some flight attendants who hadn't paid their dues cast votes anyway, despite being ineligible to do so. Other attendants in good standing with the union flooded switchboards to confirm their votes would, in fact, count... which prompted the AFA-CWA to extend the voting deadline by two hours.

The union -- in place at Northwest for less than one year, after flight attendants ousted the Professional Flight Attendants Association following the rejection of the first TA in June 2006 -- says it ultimately disqualified 484 ballots. A recount arrived at the same number, according to a statement posted on the union's website.

Perhaps not entirely by surprise, complaints about voting procedures come from the flight attendant who ran the PFAA at Northwest before it was voted out last year. In a June 5 letter to AFA leaders, Guy Meek said some members were not allowed to vote, or weren't given information on how to cast ballots.

"I believe that AFA should rerun the contract ratification vote on (the tentative pact) because of all the improprieties that occurred during the voting process," Meek wrote. The AP adds Meeks also threatened to "pursue other available avenues" if the issue wasn't promptly resolved by the AFA.

In response to Meek's concerns, AFA general council David Borer says the union has asked Meek to provide evidence of his allegations by June 22.

"So far it's just a bunch of broad allegations and no evidence whatsoever," he said, adding the union decided to withhold payment of the claim in case the matter does come to a re-vote, although that remains a distant possibility.

"The amounts of money involved are so large, and it's so difficult to unscramble the egg after the fact, we figured even if there's the remotest chance that the election would have to be rerun we would err on the side of caution here and hold up the money," Borer said.

FMI: www.nwaafa.org

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