Delta Flight Attendants Closer To Having A Voice
May 28, 2008
Delta's Voter Suppression Efforts Delay Union Representation Until Merger with Northwest
Washington, DC - Delta Air Lines flight attendants narrowly missed a chance to form a union today. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) won the vast majority of the votes cast in an historic election for union representation, but federal rules requiring a majority turnout, coupled with an aggressive voter suppression campaign by Delta management, kept thousands from casting a vote.
With only 5,306, or almost 40 percent, of eligible flight attendants voting, the National Mediation Board (NMB) would not certify the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) as the Delta flight attendants' representative after the all votes were counted. Flight attendants are optimistic that a coming vote in connection with Delta's merger with Northwest will result in winning AFA-CWA representation.
"Delta flight attendants took the next big step toward gaining a voice and a union contract," said Patricia Friend, AFA-CWA International President. "A larger portion of the Delta workforce than ever before voted for union representation. Those supporters, combined with strong union support at Northwest, will clearly be enough for the flight attendants to win union representation after the merger with Northwest is finalized."
AFA-CWA cited management's voter suppression efforts as a critical factor in the outcome. "For months, Delta management has touted its commitment to the democratic process, yet never let up on their intimidation and coercion of voters. Their empty rhetoric cannot conceal their interference. The conditions surrounding election were neither free nor fair, as required by NMB statutes. Now it is up to the National Mediation Board to defend the Delta flight attendants' right to an election free of interference," said Friend.
Today's election followed a campaign for AFA-CWA representation that began in late 2006 when a small group of Delta flight attendants began collecting the signatures necessary to call for an election. From the time AFA-CWA filed for an election in February, Delta management has waged an aggressive campaign to discourage flight attendants from voting. Across the country, crew rooms were wallpapered with anti-union messages such as "Give a Rip, Don't Click, Don't Vote," instructing flight attendants to rip up their voting instructions from the NMB and not cast a ballot. In addition, supervisors attempted to pressure flight attendant activists into discontinuing their activities in support of union representation. AFA-CWA plans to file formal interference charges with the NMB by June 6.
"Once again, management has failed to listen to what employees want," said Mark Stell, Delta flight attendant and AFA-CWA activist. "Going into this election, it was clear that Delta flight attendants wanted a union. We deserve a voice in our future and will not stop until we get a seat at the table. There is a light at the end of the tunnel however and that is the second chance we will get to become members of AFA-CWA when this merger is finalized. Until then, we will work with our colleagues at Northwest Airlines to make sure that flight attendants are not left behind as the merger progresses."
Under current NMB rules, when one non-union work group merges with a union group, if 35 percent of combined workforce has union representation or signs a union card, a union election will automatically be called. That vote is expected to occur in early 2009.
For over 60 years, the Association of Flight Attendants has been serving as the voice for flight attendants in the workplace, in the aviation industry, in the media and on Capitol Hill. More than 55,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines come together to form AFA-CWA, the world's largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afanet.org.