Although Western Airlines had representatives from four unions on its board of directors, none of them had any influence on the events leading to Western's merger with Delta Airlines in 1986, according to a U.S. Department of Labor report.

The 26-page report from the department's Bureau of Labor-Management Relations and Cooperative Programs said that in 1983 and 1984 Western decided to implement a program of labor-management cooperation as part of an overall strategy for coping with rising fuel prices, industry deregulation and a dramatic increase in competition from other air carriers.In spite of innovations of sharing financial information and adding the four union representatives to the board of directors, "management's unilateral decision-making, as well as a change in company ownership, severely limited union involvement," the report said.

The report focuses on actual changes in labor-management relations at Western and compares the very different positions and approaches of the four unions, Air Line Pilots Association, Air Transport Employees, Association of Flight Attendants and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

"While the 1986 acquisition of Western by Delta nullified the innovations introduced, the case of Western Airlines raises some useful questions that can guide other attempts at new forms of labor-management relations," according to a department official.

The study notes that external pressures can inhibit effective cooperation between company and union.