Delta announces they will be hiring 1,000 flight attendants
Photo: Vino Wong
Photo: Vino Wong

Flight attendants union launches organizing campaign at Delta

The Association of Flight Attendants is launching a new campaign to unionize Delta Air Lines flight attendants.

The flight attendants union is backing an organizing effort at the Atlanta-based airline after another union lost the exclusive right to organize Delta’s 25,000 flight attendants.

The Association of Flight Attendants’ move marks a new injection of effort and money into organizing workers at Delta, where the only major unionized employee group is the pilots. The AFA represents flight attendants at 20 airlines.

Delta has long fought attempts to unionize its flight attendants and ground workers.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) has been trying for the last several years to unionize Delta flight attendants and ground workers. The machinists union had struggled to collect enough authorization cards signed by Delta workers to file for a unionization election.

Sara Nelson, AFA international president, said Delta flight attendants have been “asking for AFA’s help in gaining union representation.”

Delta issued a statement saying: “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 its culture and customer experience, “including our ability to respond and implement quickly to our flight attendants’ ideas and feedback.”

An AFL-CIO decision set an October date for the machinists union’s exclusive right to organize Delta flight attendants to end, which opened the door for the Association of Flight Attendants to officially launch its campaign at Delta.

The machinists union issued a statement Friday saying it is “deeply concerned and disappointed” by the AFA’s announcement, saying the organizing dispute between the unions is still pending. The IAM said its campaign at Delta “is strong and ongoing.”

In particular, a grassroots effort by Delta flight attendants seeking AFA representation during the IAM’s period of exclusivity created a conflict between the two unions.

Delta is the only major airline with non-union flight attendants. The AFA lost a unionization election at Delta nine years ago. But Nelson said more than 40 percent of the flight attendants are new to the airline since then — meaning a different array of workers who may have different opinions on unions.

The AFA, citing data from a Massachusetts Institute of Technology airline data project, says United and American have higher average wages for flight attendants than Delta does. Delta contends that its total top scale cash compensation, including profit sharing for flight attendants, is higher than United’s and American’s.

Nelson said the AFA is “very intent on taking on issues facing Delta flight attendants today,” including concerns  about uniforms some flight attendants said cause rashes and other reactions.

At Delta’s hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Nelson walked the terminal Friday afternoon and met with Delta flight attendants. She said she plans to travel to other airports in the future.

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About the Author

Kelly Yamanouchi
Kelly Yamanouchi
Business reporter Kelly Yamanouchi covers airlines and the airport.
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