Delta flight attendants and ramp service workers have spent years trying to unionize. The airline is trying to dissuade them, workers say.
Though workers say their efforts have long been in the dark, a viral tweet posted Thursday has brought Delta’s anti-union tactics to light — sparking backlash against the airline and grabbing the attention from some of the country’s biggest figures.
Eoin Higgins, a journalist for Common Dreams, tweeted a picture of a Delta flyer that told workers they could spend $700 on a new gaming system with “the latest hits” instead of paying union dues for a year.
“Union dues cost around $700 a year,” the flyer read. “A new video game system with the latest hits sounds like fun. Put your money towards that instead of paying dues to the union.”
Other flyers — which Delta confirmed are placed inside company break rooms — tells workers they could buy “tickets & food to a baseball game for a family” or spend “a night out watching football with their buddies” instead of paying union dues.
The International Association of Machinists has attempted to organize Delta workers for years, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, but has been unsuccessful as Delta refuses to recognize the union.
The machinists’ union says it is now collecting signed cards from Delta ground workers and flight attendants to call for a unionization vote. It must receive A-Cards, the legal document that states an employee wants unionize, from at least 50 percent of the employees in the applicable work group in order to hold an election.
Fast Company reported Thursday that Delta has capped the number of hours part-time employees can work and does not provide them with adequate health insurance — two grievances that workers want to address as part of a union contract.
In an effort to keep its employees away from further pushing for a union, the Atlanta-based airline launched its own campaign, including websites and apps criticizing the machinists’ union and urging them not to sign the cards calling for a unionization vote.
But that viral tweet resulted in a backlash against Delta’s anti-union campaign. The airline then sent out this statement:
"This poster is one of many pieces of content available to our employees and was produced by Delta a year ago. The specific questions are available in the employee break rooms.
“The direct relationship we have with our employees is at the very core of our strong culture and it has enabled continuous investments in Delta people. Our employees have the best total compensation in the industry, including the most lucrative profit sharing program in the world. They want and deserve the facts and we respect our employees’ right to decide if a union is right for them. Delta has shared many communications, which on the whole make clear that deciding whether or not to unionize should not be taken lightly.”
James Carlson, a coordinator with the machinists’ union, told Vox that Delta’s anti-union tactics are nothing new.
“Delta is probably one of the most anti-union companies in the world,” he said. “They’ve hired consultants to run anti-union campaigns. The flyer you saw that caused so much hubbub is just the tip of the iceberg on the tactics that Delta uses.”
On Twitter, reactions to the anti-union flyers were predominantly negative, with people mocking the company for attempting to ‘trick’ its lesser paid employees (pilots and dispatchers are already unionized) to keep them from joining one. Politicians — including 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders — addressed the flyer with their own thoughts.
“What a disgrace," Sanders tweeted. “Delta’s CEO made nearly $22 million in 2017 while paying ramp agents as little as $9/hour. I say to Delta: Stop trying to undercut workers’ right to form a union and negotiate for better wages.”
Many Twitter users also pointed to Delta’s profits and said the airline should share its wealth with its day-to-day workers. Delta is the world’s second largest airline behind American Airlines. It made $5.2 billion in pre-tax income in 2018 and gave away about $1.3 billion to its employees in bonuses, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
The airline made $10.5 billion in revenue the first quarter of the year and saw its profits increase 31 percent to $730 million.