In fighting off an aggressive unionization effort, Delta Air Lines is trying to preserve a familial corporate culture with deep southern roots. Delta is proud of its 60-plus years without a strike, compared with 11 strikes in 50 years at Northwest Airlines, which merged with Delta in 2008. Analysts say Delta, which is currently about 30% unionized, could lose a competitive advantage if flight attendants, machinists and other groups vote for union representation. Airlines with heavily unionized workforces "tend to be more bogged down in work rules, making them less flexible and agile," says William Swelbar, who studies airlines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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