Some lawmakers want Delta neutral on union fight. Most shareholders don’t

Delta shareholders shoot down proposal that would’ve prohibited airline from campaigning against unionization
Delta airplanes are parked at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday, May 22, 2024.
Miguel Martinez /

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Delta airplanes are parked at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. Miguel Martinez /

Delta Air Lines shareholders on Thursday voted against a measure that would have prohibited the company from pressuring employees not to unionize.

It follows a similar no-vote last year, when stock owners of the Atlanta-based airline also voted against a similar “non-interference policy” on unionization.

The proposal this year was submitted by As You Sow, an environmental and social corporate accountability shareholder advocacy group, on behalf of a fund managed by Chicago-based Amalgamated Bank.

Delta recommended shareholders vote against the measure. The company said after Thursday’s annual meeting that about 74% of votes on the measure were against it or abstaining, while about 26% were in favor.

The vote comes as unions are campaigning to organize 50,000 workers at Delta, including flight attendants, baggage handlers and mechanics. While other major U.S. airlines are highly unionized, at Delta the only major unionized group is its pilots.

Unions have spent years seeking to organize workers at Delta, while the company has urged its employees not to sign authorization cards to call for a union representation election.

More than 150 members of the U.S. House in both parties and dozens of U.S. senators have written letters urging Delta to remain neutral on union organizing.

Lyndsay Fritz, a vice president of corporate social responsibility at Amalgamated Bank, said in a recorded message to shareholders that the bank’s LongView funds “participate in shareholder advocacy because we believe good governance leads to long term shareholder value.”

Fritz noted that Delta has an anti-union website that tells employees “Don’t Risk It. Don’t Sign it” and said Amalgamated Bank’s proposal called for Delta to adopt a non-interference policy that “upholds the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, conforming with international standards.”

Delta in its rebuttal said the adoption of the proposal “could fundamentally alter Delta’s culture and deprive Delta employees of the opportunity to hear from the company about the important issue of union representation.”

After the vote, Delta issued a statement saying its culture “is firmly rooted in taking care of its employees who, over the past two decades, have repeatedly chosen to reject union representation.”

The company said its shareholders “rejected a proposal that asked Delta to voluntarily waive its rights under U.S. labor laws to communicate with employees about important issues, including facts about representation, its impact on their work lives and their relationship with Delta. We appreciate our investors’ thoughtfulness in their decision to support Delta and its employees.”

Delta shareholders also voted against a proposal submitted by activist investor John Chevedden calling for Delta to adopt a policy requiring an annual report on its expenditures for political activities. Chevedden told shareholders at the meeting that “companies can no longer give to politically active groups without paying close attention to the consequences or to what their political spending might enable.”

He also said public records show Delta has contributed $1.8 million to groups whose beneficiaries “have been tied to attacks on voting rights, efforts to deny climate change, efforts to impose extreme restrictions on abortion, and even the riot at the U.S. Capitol — associations many companies wish to avoid.”

Like the non-interference shareholder proposal, Delta also recommended shareholders vote against Chevedden’s disclosure proposal.

Delta told shareholders that adopting the proposal would be “unduly burdensome and unnecessary, given Delta’s existing procedures and current extensive disclosures about political contributions.”