Flight attendant union launches organizing effort at Delta

Nov 1, 2019

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Are Delta’s flight attendants ready to unionize?

The USA’s largest flight attendant union is hoping so. The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) announced Friday that it had launched an organizing campaign at the carrier.

Delta Air Lines is among the least-unionized of all the big U.S. carriers. The airline’s pilots are unionized, but none of its other major employee groups are.

“We have heard from thousands of Flight Attendants at Delta Air Lines asking for AFA’s help in gaining union representation,” AFA president Sara Nelson said in a statement. “Today, we’re excited to launch that campaign with 25,000 Delta Flight Attendants to gain a voice, respect and fairness on the job.”

The union’s prospects for success remain unclear.

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Delta attendants rejected an organizing campaign by the AFA in 2010, an effort that came shortly after the merger of Delta and Northwest. Other organizing efforts at Delta have struggled in recent years.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution offers the local take, writing that “with a mostly nonunion work force that has voted against labor representation for years, Delta is unique among major airlines.”

Delta’s management has previously said its “direct relationship” with its workers is a key component of the Atlanta-based carrier’s culture.

The AFA’s latest effort, however, comes as labor has scored some successes in the airline industry in recent years. Attendants at JetBlue, for example, voted for representation in 2018. And that came after JetBlue’s pilots did the same in 2014.

Delta acknowledged the AFA’s effort, but reiterated its hope to maintain a “direct partnership” with its workers.

“This marks the AFA’s fourth attempt to organize at Delta, after flight attendants rejected their efforts during three previous elections since 2002,” Delta said in a statement to TPG. “While we respect our flight attendants’ right to choose whether or not to support AFA representation, we feel that our direct partnership with Delta people plays a significant role in our award-winning culture and customer experience including our ability to respond and implement quickly to our flight attendants’ ideas and feedback.”

Listen to Nelson chat with Brian Kelly about Delta’s flight attendants unionizing on an episode of Talking Points below:

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

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