Flight attendants at Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines work at one of the few U.S. airlines that don’t yet have official union representation – in spite of a high profile union campaign. But now a spat has broken out between the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and International Association of Machinists (IAM) over who should be leading the fight for representation.
In order for Delta flight attendants to get representation, a union has to convince at least half of all flight crew at the airline to sign an authorization card. Hitting the 50% threshold would trigger an election and a positive result could see a union apply to the National Mediation Board to get them recognised at the official negotiators for Delta flight attendants.
The IAM has been running a union recognition campaign for years but they say their efforts have been undermined by the AFA. In an interesting development, the umbrella organization for unions across the United States, The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, has stepped in and given IAM exclusive rights to lead the fight.
The ruling effectively bans AFA from making any attempts to organise Delta flight attendants for at least 18-months. Any election authorization cards collected by AFA cannot be used to file for an election and IAM says it reserves the right to seek “substantial sanctions” against AFA if the union doesn’t take a step back.
Apparently, the dispute has been going on for some time – the IAM claim its rival has been “meddling” in efforts to organize Delta flight attendants since at least 2015. Accusations have been made that AFA had a “desire” to see the IAM campaign fail.
AFA has apparently said they weren’t involved in the rival bid – instead, suggesting it had been started at a grassroots level. The IAM is confident they’ll be able to obtain enough a-cards within the next 18-months to call an election.
Spencer Hayes, a long-serving Delta flight attendant recently spelt out his reasons for wanting union representation. He said the primary reason for wanting union backing was to improve safety at the airline – suggesting that flight attendants currently have to put all their trust in Delta.
Hayes also argued a union could negotiate a better scheduling agreement – including during periods of disruption (or as its referred to in the industry, IROPS – Irregular Operations).
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.