JetBlue Union Organizing Heats Up in Wake of Historic Union Victories
A recent spate of high-profile union victories is inspiring union organizers at JetBlue, according to Ground Operations Crewmembers, at an appreciation rally this week at JFK airport in New York.
The event was hosted by the Machinists Union, which Ground Crews at JetBlue are seeking to join. The Machinists include ground and gate agents, flight crews, and other air transport workers at every airline and large airport in the country.
Headlining the rally was Tristan “Lion” Dutchin, one of the lead organizers at Amazon’s Staten Island facility that became the first property at the trillion-dollar corporation to unionize.
“I wanted to come out and show support for what Ground Ops are trying to do,” said Dutchin. “It’s not easy. Really, organizing with a union is impossible until suddenly it’s not,” he said. “There’s a lot a company like JetBlue or Apple or Amazon can do to mess you up,” he continued.
A central union-busting talking point at Amazon was to portray unions as “outsiders” and “third parties,” an argument that Dutchin laughed off. “I’m a third party now just because I joined a union?” He asked mockingly. “Ain’t no third parties. Sometimes they act like they don’t even know what a union is,” he said of Amazon’s anti-union efforts.
The union that Dutchin helped found, the Amazon Labor Union (ALU), is aggressively building itself up, growing, and educating its membership about union activism. An essential part of that effort includes outreach to other labor groups and participating in high-profile union drives like the ongoing campaign at JetBlue.
Johnsen also pledged to work closely with the ALU, including hammering out a potential agreement to open the renowned Winpisinger Education Center to ALU members. “The Winpisinger Center is the largest labor school in North America,” he said. “It has an expert teaching staff that holds classes on things that matter to unions. Things like contract negotiations, leadership training, arbitration, organizing and more. It’ll be a great asset to JetBlue Crewmembers once they come on board, and I hope that ALU members will look into the opportunity to find out more about the Winpisinger Center.”
Machinists held the rally to showcase union organizing at the airline and recognize Ground crews currently working towards joining the Machinists Union. According to event organizers, the demonstration drew about a hundred JetBlue Crewmembers, many of whom participated in a raffle, were served an assortment of food items, and signed union authorization cards. Union authorization cards are critical to earning union rights at the workplace. More than half of employees must sign a card petitioning the federal government to recognize a union vote. Once a vote is scheduled, employees will then get a chance to formally join a union.
While JetBlue has thus far managed to avoid a union vote among Ground Crewmembers, Machinists Union organizers say that the campaign is getting very close to reaching its target of “50% +1” for card signing.
“We are very close,” said Machinists Union District President Mike Klemm. “The mood has changed. The rate of card signing is way up. People are asking questions, and we’ll be here to give our Ground Operations Crewmembers all the resources they need,” Klemm said.
“Importantly,” he continued, “we have the best union organizers in the nation working on this from our end. They’re working side by side with Crewmembers at JetBlue, who are organizing on the inside. Altogether, I am incredibly proud of this team. I know we’re going to get this done,” he said.
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