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Delta Air Lines Targeted by Another Union Organizing Drive (1)

Nov. 1, 2019, 6:04 PM; Updated: Nov. 1, 2019, 8:26 PM

The Association of Flight Attendants is launching a campaign to unionize 25,000 flight attendants at Delta Air Lines, after an ongoing union campaign by the International Association of Machinists has yet to produce a vote after more than a year and a half of organizing.

The union, a sector of the Communications Workers of America and one of the country’s largest unions of flight attendants, announced the new campaign Nov. 1. It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen to the Machinists Union’s ongoing organizing drive.

A dueling organizing drive could derail ongoing efforts to unionize the workers. The IAM said it was “deeply concerned and disappointed” by the announcement and suggested that such a move was premature.

“The IAM Delta campaign is strong and ongoing,” the Machinists said in a statement. “As more information regarding this matter becomes available, the IAM will make such information available to all Delta Flight Attendants.”

The AFA, meanwhile, said in its announcement that the air carrier’s employees want to see AFA representation.

“We have heard from thousands of Flight Attendants at Delta Air Lines asking for AFA’s help in gaining union representation,” AFA President Sara Nelson said. “Today, we’re excited to launch that campaign with 25,000 Delta Flight Attendants to gain a voice, respect and fairness on the job.”

The AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of labor unions, previously granted the IAM an 18-month period of organizing exclusivity during which the AFA was unable to organize workers. The Machinists have since been actively organizing flight attendants, including meeting with employees who are on assignment abroad.

Last week marked 18 months since the federation released that determination. Both the AFA and IAM are affiliates of the AFL-CIO and subject to the federation’s rules governing territorial disputes.

A History at Delta

The AFA is no stranger to organizing Delta flight attendants. The union has been attempting to organize the workers since at least 2001 and has faced a number of unsuccessful votes. The latest effort in 2010 came within hundreds of votes of an AFA victory.

The Machinists haven’t yet requested a vote in its ongoing campaign. A previous IAM vote scheduled for 2015 was abandoned after questions surfaced about the legitimacy of some signed union authorization cards.

The AFL-CIO didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The airline is the only U.S.-based mainline carrier without flight attendant union representation, according to the AFA.

Airline Responds

Delta said in a statement that it respects its employees’ right to choose a union, but called attention to the AFA’s previous unsuccessful organizing drives.

“This marks the AFA’s fourth attempt to organize at Delta, after flight attendants rejected their efforts during three previous elections since 2002,” the company said in a statement.

“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 our award-winning culture and customer experience,” Delta said. That partnership allows the company to quickly respond to and implement flight attendants’ ideas and feedback, it said.

(Updated with additional reporting.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Wallender in Washington at awallender@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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