Potential U.S. Presidential nominee, Senator Bernie Sanders has written an open letter to Delta’s chief executive, Ed Bastian decrying the airline’s treatment of employees and union-busting activities. The letter, which was co-signed by eight other senators, comes less than a week after an internal anti-union advertising campaign at Delta was exposed – some of the posters created by Delta suggested employees would be better off spending their wages on buying a games console or alcohol rather than joining a union.
“The lengths that your management has gone to prevent your employees from having a voice in their future are unacceptable,” the senators wrote. “These actions violate the dignity and respect of all Delta workers and need to stop,” the letter continues.
Unlike most other U.S. airlines, Delta’s workforce is largely non-unionised – a state of affairs that Delta has long fought to maintain despite a high-profile campaign led by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The union claims Delta has been surveilling employees involved in union activities and targeted dismissals of union activists.
In a formal complaint to the U.S. government, the IAM is now calling on the National Mediation Board to open up an investigation into what it describes as Delta’s “unlawful, systematic anti-union campaign that includes intimidation, discipline and termination of union activities”.
But IAM’s charges of union election interference face a big problem – the NMB would usually wait until a union has bee elected before investigating an employer for misconduct. The union argues this case merits an immediate investigation because of what it says are “exceptional circumstances”.
The IAM campaign has now been backed by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) who are calling on fellow aviation workers from workers around the world to meet Delta crew on international layovers to “express solidarity in their struggle for union representation.”
Delta has so far publicly ignored the growing campaign and an anti-union website created by the airline is still live – the ‘Don’t Risk it, Don’t Sign it’ site claims the IAM has committed fraud, some of its officials are convicted thieves and that the union is involved in nepotism.
To win the right to represent Delta’s flight attendants and ramp workers, the union must convince at least 50% of employees in those workgroups to sign union authorization cards (or A-Cards). At this point, the union can hold an official ballot and if elected, every employee would be covered by the union.
The IAM says it can win Delta employees better pay and conditions, as well as greater job security. It’s not known how close the IAM is to reaching the 50% A-Card threshold.