Of the Big Three U.S. airlines, Delta is generally considered to offer the best service. Its employees seem to be more engaged and service focused and in return, they get their share of one of the biggest profit-sharing bonuses in the industry. What sets Atlanta-based Delta apart from both American and United Airlines is that the vast majority of its employees aren’t unionized and in the most part a lot of Delta’s 80,000 people don’t seem fazed by that.
It’s impossible to tell whether the lack of union representation is the key to Delta’s success but the one thing that we do know for certain is that Delta most definitely doesn’t want that to change. Unfortunately, for Delta, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers or IAM for short has been running a high profile campaign to unionize more work groups, including flight attendants, at the airline.
For several years the IAM has been encouraging Delta employees to sign union authorization cards – if the union can get more than 50% of employees to sign an authorization card then a formal vote would have to be held. If the majority of workers then voted in favor, every employee would be represented by the union and all things like contract negotiations would be dealt with by the union.
Delta likes the current system because it gives them a lot more freedom. For their part, Delta says not having a union allows them to talk directly with employees and address issues immediately. On the other hand, the IAM says Delta employees are missing out on increased job security, an improved contract and better health care benefits that they claim they would win from Delta.
As the debate heats up, Delta has just launched a major offensive against unionization pinning posters up in employee areas to discourage them from signing an authorization card. One poster claims that the cost of paying dues to a union would be better spent on buying a games console. Another poster asks whether buying alcohol would be a better way to spend the money.
Delta has even launched a dedicated website called ‘don’t risk it, don’t sign it.com‘ which claims the IAM will do anything to make employees sign an authorization card. Employees are encouraged to sign up for news updates about Delta’s campaign to prevent unionization.
The overriding message is summed up in this slogan: “De Delta. Be Different.”
The union is not best pleased with Delta’s new campaign.
“Delta Air Lines’ all-out assault on their employees’ legally-protected right to unionize with the Machinist Union is confirmation that our campaign to bring the benefits of IAM-representation to more than 40,000 ground workers and flight attendants is succeeding,” the union said in a statement released yesterday afternoon.
“Delta has resorted to defaming and spewing lies and misprensation about the IAM,” the statement continued. “They also continually displaying anti-IAM propaganda in their workplace.”
“The day when Delta ramp workers and flight attendants will finally be able to bargain for the compensation, benefits and work rules they deserve is coming quickly, and that has Delta terrified.”
This isn’t the first time that Delta has put up posters in a bid to prevent unionization. You won’t see any of these posters in public facing areas – these are intended just for employees and the airline is perfectly entitled to campaign how it sees fit. That being said, one can’t help but think this is slightly desperate. It’s also impossible to really trust the claims Delta is making.
In the past, the union has claimed Delta of threatening employees who represent IAM in the workplace. The IAM has also recently accused Delta of trying to hide issues with its new uniform, fearing that some employees are suffering the skin conditions that were widespread at American Airlines when it launched what has been dubbed a “toxic uniform”.