Delta is now facing three of the largest unions in North American at the same time. Get ready for pizza parties.

Historic Union Alliance Forms at Delta

GOIAM.org
28 November 2022

North America’s three largest airline unions have formed a historic alliance to unify tens of thousands of workers at Delta Air Lines.

Unlike most commercial airlines, most workers at Delta are unorganized and have no union rights or bargaining power. Airlines’ management has worked hard to keep it that way, spending a fortune to protect its ability to dominate employees one-on-one instead of as a group. The airline even killed Northwest’s heavily union tradition when it merged with the smaller carrier nearly a decade ago. 

When individual employees are isolated and left to negotiate with billion-dollar corporate giants such as Delta, they are usually forced into a “take it or leave it.” offer that often results in exploitation. Disunity among workers allows companies to impose arbitrary and unfair terminations and pay cuts and issue scheduling demands that disrupt workers’ personal lives. Additionally, companies can violate legal workplace protections with near impunity, knowing that individual employees can rarely afford to take violators to court.

Abusive policies at one airline can have spillover effects on other carriers, even those protected by the ability of union workers to take group action. Other airlines can use Delta’s ability to dominate workers to justify similar policies to “remain competitive” in contract negotiations.

Ground workers at Delta have enlisted the Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union’s (IAMAW) help to gain union status for years. Likewise, flight crews have reached out to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). Now, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is joining the fight and working to organize the airlines’ Tech Ops workers. 

At the IAMAW Grand Lodge Convention earlier this year, General Vice President Richard Johnsen condemned union rivalries and called for more unified action. Johnsen, who heads the Air Transport Territory, said at the time, “We have to stop fighting other unions,” Johnsen told Machinists union members. “Delta Air Lines — one of the most anti-union companies in the country — has successfully kept unions off their property for their lifetime.”

“Let Delta Air Lines come after the whole labor movement instead of targeting one of us,” he said.

In a statement issued after the alliance was announced, Johnsen laid out the key factors driving the organizing effort for Delta ground workers. Foremost among the changes needed at the airline were consistent work rules, pensions, adequate staffing and safety policies, and a healthier work-life balance. 

The statement continued, “With a union contract, Delta won’t be able to change vacation accrual schedules or anything else unilaterally because, with a union, you have a voice in determining your destiny. With a union comes a union safety committee that can fight for adequate staffing, proper and well-maintained equipment, and union representatives whom you elect and fight for you—not corporate shareholders.”

Delta responded by saying management would prefer to pit individual employees against the company one at a time, in what the airline called a “direct relationship.” Kelly Yamanouchi, writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quoted the airline as saying that this tactic would lead to a “stronger, faster, and more effective way to drive improvements than AFA, IAM, or Teamsters representation would be.” 

The move at Delta comes as employees are unifying at an unprecedented rate across America. According to the National Labor Relations Board, new union filings have shot up by 53% over the last year. This increase is the highest single-year jump since 2016. 

It’s also happening as Ground Operations Crew Members at JetBlue have filed a petition with the National Mediation Board to join the Machinists Union. The Machinists Union is North America’s largest group of transportation, aviation, and aerospace workers. The union’s largest single commercial aviation district, District 141, led by Union President Mike Klemm, is currently negotiating multiple contracts with United Airlines. The agreements cover fleet and customer service workers, security guards, instructors, and load planners at the airline.

Previous contracts negotiated by Machinists Union airline workers include historic pay increases at Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Hawaiian, and Southwest. However, increasingly, workers are asking for workplace improvements, not more money. More and more, a healthier work-life balance has begun to rise to the top of employee priorities. 

At Spirit, workers gained the highest pay rates in the history of the airline, and part-time workers also gained the ability to take vacations – another first for ground workers at the airline. “For some of these workers, this will be the first time they’ve been able to take a paid vacation,” District President Mike Klemm said. “It’s hard to believe that working people are still fighting for things like vacation time in the modern age, but here we are,” he continued. 

Other Machinists Union Contracts negotiated by Machinists Union members include provisions that make mandatory overtime much more expensive and give workers more flexibility in their work schedules. To Klemm, these priorities reflect a new way of thinking about the modern workplace. While wages and job security remain critical factors, unions also address concerns that help build a better life overall.

“Family comes first,” President Klemm said of the shift in union values. “Family comes first, second and third,” he continued, pointing out the importance of giving workers the ability to earn high enough wages that afford them the ability to spend more time off the clock. “Delta workers and JetBlue Ground Operations are overworked and undervalued,” he said. “Workers at United, American, Southwest, Hawaiian, and Spirit are ready and willing to fight side by side with them and help win the legally-binding union contracts they deserve.”

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Historic Union Alliance Forged at Delta

28 November 2022

Delta must now contend with an alliance of the three largest airline workers’ unions in North America. Let the pizza parties commence. 

North America’s three largest airline unions have formed a historic alliance to unify tens of thousands of workers at Delta Air Lines.

Unlike most commercial airlines, most workers at Delta are unorganized and have no union rights or bargaining power. Airlines’ management has worked hard to keep it that way, spending a fortune to protect its ability to dominate employees one-on-one instead of as a group. The airline even killed Northwest’s heavily union tradition when it merged with the smaller carrier nearly a decade ago. 

When individual employees are isolated and left to negotiate with billion-dollar corporate giants such as Delta, they are usually forced into a “take it or leave it.” offer that often results in exploitation. Disunity among workers allows companies to impose arbitrary and unfair terminations and pay cuts and issue scheduling demands that disrupt workers’ personal lives. Additionally, companies can violate legal workplace protections with near impunity, knowing that individual employees can rarely afford to take violators to court. 

Abusive policies at one airline can have spillover effects on other carriers, even those protected by the ability of union workers to take group action. Other airlines can use Delta’s ability to dominate workers to justify similar policies to “remain competitive” in contract negotiations.

Ground workers at Delta have enlisted the Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union’s (IAMAW) help to gain union status for years. Likewise, flight crews have reached out to the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). Now, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters is joining the fight and working to organize the airlines’ Tech Ops workers. 

At the IAMAW Grand Lodge Convention earlier this year, General Vice President Richard Johnsen condemned union rivalries and called for more unified action. Johnsen, who heads the Air Transport Territory, said at the time, “We have to stop fighting other unions,” Johnsen told Machinists union members. “Delta Air Lines — one of the most anti-union companies in the country — has successfully kept unions off their property for their lifetime.”

“Let Delta Air Lines come after the whole labor movement instead of targeting one of us,” he said.



In a statement issued after the alliance was announced, Johnsen laid out the key factors driving the organizing effort for Delta ground workers. Foremost among the changes needed at the airline were consistent work rules, pensions, adequate staffing and safety policies, and a healthier work-life balance. 

The statement continued, “With a union contract, Delta won’t be able to change vacation accrual schedules or anything else unilaterally because, with a union, you have a voice in determining your destiny. With a union comes a union safety committee that can fight for adequate staffing, proper and well-maintained equipment, and union representatives whom you elect and fight for you—not corporate shareholders.”

Delta responded by saying management would prefer to pit individual employees against the company one at a time, in what the airline called a “direct relationship.” Kelly Yamanouchi, writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, quoted the airline as saying that this tactic would lead to a “stronger, faster, and more effective way to drive improvements than AFA, IAM, or Teamsters representation would be.” 

The move at Delta comes as employees are unifying at an unprecedented rate across America. According to the National Labor Relations Board, new union filings have shot up by 53% over the last year. This increase is the highest single-year jump since 2016. 

It’s also happening as Ground Operations Crew Members at JetBlue have filed a petition with the National Mediation Board to join the Machinists Union. The Machinists Union is North America’s largest group of transportation, aviation, and aerospace workers. The union’s largest single commercial aviation district, District 141, led by Union President Mike Klemm, is currently negotiating multiple contracts with United Airlines. The agreements cover fleet and customer service workers, security guards, instructors, and load planners at the airline.

Previous contracts negotiated by Machinists Union airline workers include historic pay increases at Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Hawaiian, and Southwest. However, increasingly, workers are asking for workplace improvements, not more money. More and more, a healthier work-life balance has begun to rise to the top of employee priorities. 

At Spirit, workers gained the highest pay rates in the history of the airline, and part-time workers also gained the ability to take vacations – another first for ground workers at the airline. “For some of these workers, this will be the first time they’ve been able to take a paid vacation,” District President Mike Klemm said. “It’s hard to believe that working people are still fighting for things like vacation time in the modern age, but here we are,” he continued. 

Other Machinists Union Contracts negotiated by Machinists Union members include provisions that make mandatory overtime much more expensive and give workers more flexibility in their work schedules. To Klemm, these priorities reflect a new way of thinking about the modern workplace. While wages and job security remain critical factors, unions also address concerns that help build a better life overall. “Family comes first,” President Klemm said of the shift in union values. “Family comes first, second and third,” he continued, pointing out the importance of giving workers the ability to earn high enough wages that afford them the ability to spend more time off the clock. “Delta workers and JetBlue Ground Operations are overworked and undervalued,” he said. “Workers at United, American, Southwest, Hawaiian, and Spirit are ready and willing to fight side by side with them and help win the legally-binding union contracts they deserve.”



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