Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Delta Air Lines opposes flight attendant unionization

Delta Airlines logoAs I wrote here in Cabin Crew News last month, Delta flight attendants are seeking union representation. In that article I wrote:

Up to now, Delta flight attendants have not been unionized. Although there has been growing dissatisfaction with pay and work rules among the rank and file, it seems that the tipping point came as Delta began engaging in merger talks with other carriers. Now a growing number of Delta's flight attendants are acknowledging the potential value of representation by a formal collective bargaining unit such as the AFA [the Association of Flight Attendants].
On February 14, 2008, a majority of Delta flight attendants did indeed submit signature cards to the National Mediation Board (NMB), formally requesting union representation. Yesterday, the NMB officially announced that the flight attendants' request for election of a union had been authorized. In its letter to Delta Air Lines and the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), the NMB indicated that "the election will be conducted by Telephone Electronic Voting and Internet Voting."
The Notice and Sample Instruction will be sent out on April 16, 2008. The Voting Instructions will be mailed to the employees on April 23, 2008. The voting period will be from 12:01 a.m., ET, April 23, 2008, through June 3, 2008. The tally will take place at the Board's offices on June 3, 2008, at 2 p.m. ET.
Today, Delta's response to this news was to issue a press release with a very lengthy title:

Delta Flight Attendants to Decide on Union Representation; Company Says Direct Relationship with Management Best for Flight Attendants

That title, folks, is the story in a nutshell. But there is a longer version. The press release, referenced above, included the text of a statement from Joanne Smith, senior vice president – In-Flight Service and Global Product Development, as follows:
“Delta flight attendants will make one of the most important decisions of their careers over the coming months as they choose between a direct relationship with Delta’s management team or the cost and risk of a third-party representative,” Smith said. “Our flight attendants have long been successful at speaking for themselves and we continually demonstrate our willingness to respond quickly and directly to their individual and collective feedback. I’m asking all of our flight attendants to make an educated choice, based on fact.

“The facts are: Delta flight attendants have it better than what the Association of Flight Attendants’ has been able to deliver at other airlines, and those airlines’ contracts are not open to changes for several years to come – years in which Delta flight attendants will continue to enjoy higher rates of pay, a better profit sharing program and a better performance rewards program.

“In contrast, the AFA’s track record at other network carriers is not a good one. The AFA has demonstrated that its members have not been protected from pay cuts, job loss, pension termination or any other changes affecting the airline industry. And flight attendants at those other airlines also must pay hundreds of dollars per year in union dues.

“Delta has good momentum thanks to the hard work of all Delta people and we look forward to the ability to continue working on their behalf and responding to their feedback,” Smith continued.
An Associated Press article about the upcoming union election, published on Forbes.com and elsewhere, quoted Corey Caldwell, an AFA-CWA spokeswoman, who said Smith's statement is "typical, anti-union rhetoric that companies use."
"The truth is when there is a union on property, there's just as much communication with management as there was before," Caldwell said. "The only thing that changes is this time the flight attendants get to determine the issues and policies that affect them as a group instead of being dependent on the company to make decisions for them."
For further insight about what rank-and-file Delta flight attendants are thinking about the unionization issue, visit the Delta Voices page of the website opened by AFA to support the campaign by Delta flight attendants for unionization. There, dozens of Delta flight attendants have come forward publicly to share with their flying partners their reasons for supporting the move to unionize.

Should Delta's flight attendants succeed in their bid to unionize, they will be airline's the second major work group to have union representation. At the present time, only Delta's pilots are represented by a union; they are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

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