Tristan “Lion” Dutchin (center, light brown shirt) was instrumental in the historic campaign to bring union rights to the Amazon Staten Island Facility, the first such victory in the history of the trillion-dollar company.. He is lending his insights and support to JetBlue Ground Operations Crew members currently organizing with the Machinists Union!
Tristan is shown here with GVP Richard Johnsen (center, blue shirt) District 141 President Mike Klemm (center, dark shirt), and a team of Machinist Union Organizers. Photos: Brian Vega, IAMAW 141 Communications Coordinator

JetBlue Union Organizing Heats Up in Wake of Historic Union Victories

Organizing
8 July 2022

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. 

As one of the lead organizers at Amazon, Dutchin saw firsthand how far companies are willing to go to stop a union drive. “They hired people to go work and pose as real employees,” he said. “When really their only job was to spy on us and badmouth unions,” he explained. “That fooled a lot of us for a while until we caught on to what they were doing.”

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.

Richard Johnsen, General Vice President of the Machinists’ newly formed Air Transport Territory, expressed optimism that the Machinists and the ALU could forge a strong alliance. “We are more than just unions,” said Johnsen. “We’re also part of a movement. People are tired of sitting on the sidelines. They want to act, they want to make changes. That’s why this campaign at JetBlue is so exciting; it’s a vital part of a larger movement to prove that working people deserve just as much respect as managers and executives.”

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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