The machinists union and a group of U.S. senators including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are accusing Delta Air Lines Inc. of foul play in the struggle over whether 40,000 of its employees will unionize.

The International Association of Machinists, which is seeking to organize Delta’s flight attendants and ground workers, filed a complaint Wednesday with the National Mediation Board accusing the company of “systematic, widespread and egregious forms of interference with employee choice” on unionization.

“Delta’s unlawful campaign has included disciplining and firing union activists, destroying union campaign materials, changing company policies to further frustrate unionization, and cornering employees in one-on-one meetings to interrogate them and attempt to influence their actions,” the unions’ attorneys allege in their filing.

Delta didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The Machinists union is circulating union cards but hasn’t yet filed for an election.

Nine U.S. senators, led by Sanders and including fellow presidential candidate Warren, weighed in Wednesday on the union’s behalf. The group sent Delta Chief Executive Officer Ed Bastian a letter accusing the company of “bombarding employees with anti-union propaganda” and of directing management “to actively interfere with the efforts of your workers to decide this question for themselves.”

“Your attempts to deny the right of Delta workers to form a union is corporate greed, plain and simple,” they wrote. A 10th senator, Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said Wednesday that her staff had met with Delta about its anti-union campaign, and that she was disappointed the company wouldn’t agree to alter its tactics.

Delta drew social media mockery and subsequent media attention last week over anti-union materials it created suggesting that employees spend their money on a new video game system rather than paying union dues.

On a website created to discourage unionization, the company tells employees that “one of the things that makes Delta our Delta” is that, as opposed to a union, there is a “direct relationship that exists between our leaders and our people.”

Federal law allows airlines to express anti-union views, but restricts them from unduly influencing, interfering with, or coercing employees’ choice prior to a vote.


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Photo Credit: Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 presidential candidate, at a recent rally. Bloomberg