Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines has faced a fair amount of flack over the last week after the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) leaked a series of internal union-busting adverts that had been displayed in Delta’s workrooms. The IAM has been fighting a years-long battle to convince Delta’s flight attendants and ramp workers to unionize and clearly didn’t like Delta telling its employees that they’d be better off spending their wages on alcohol instead of union dues.
Condemnation of Delta’s anti-union messaging has been swift and far-reaching. A few days ago, potential Presidential nominee Bernie Sanders even wrote an open letter to Delta’s chief executive accusing the airline of violating the dignity of its employees.
Co-signed by eight other senators, the letter told Ed Bastion that they had “serious concerns” over the “demeaning” union-busting ads. It continued:
“The lengths that your management has gone to prevent your employees from having a voice in their future are unacceptable.” The letter even claimed that the airline’s actions “violate the dignity and respect of all Delta workers and need to stop.”
“Let’s be clear. Your attempts to deny the right of Delta workers to form a union is corporate greed, plain and simple. If Delta workers gain union representation they will finally have the right to collectively bargain with Delta for a living wage, decent benefits and safe working conditions.”
How has Delta responded?
Up until now, Delta has remained fairly tight-lipped about the whole situation. But it now looks like Bastion wants to present his side of the story in his own open letter which he has sent to Bernie Sanders:
I’m responding to clear up misperceptions you have heard regarding Delta, our people and our values-driven culture that has been at the heart of our business for nearly 100 years. Delta is the most successful airline on the globe because of our people, and taking care of them is my No. 1 job. We take great pride in the fact that they are the best-performing, best-compensated aviation professionals in our industry.
I agree that the communication recently cited by the IAM – a year-old flyer that was in our breakrooms and removed after a week – was poorly crafted and not an appropriate communication to our people. That’s not who we are, and we have taken steps to make sure future messages to our people regarding their choices on representation are always meaningful and respectful of their rights.
I am honored and humbled to lead this team of 80,000 of the world’s greatest aviation professionals. They show every day their commitment to each other, to our customers and our communities, and that’s why Delta puts them at the heart of every decision we make.
Bastion then goes on to clear up what he believes are a number of misinterpretations or even plain lies about the way in which Delta treats its employees.
- He says annual wages have risen 80% since 2008 and employees have received no less than 10 wage increases in the last decade.
- He denies that some workers are earning as little as $9 per hour – “starting salaries are nearly double that” Bastion explains.
- Bastion also mentions Delta’s famous profit sharing scheme – the best in the industry “and likely throughout America” he claims.
- He also says Delta’s 401(k) plan is “industry-leading” and explains the efforts Delta went to in order to protect pensions when it faced bankruptcy.
No one is denying that many of Delta’s employees are happy – as Bastion explains, average attrition is just 5% and average seniority is an impressive 16-years so clearly something is keeping workers at the airline. I’m not going to go into the pro’s and con’s of union membership – I touched on that only yesterday and there are many more competing arguments.
At the end of the day, this is a decision that Delta employees have to make for themselves based on facts – “poorly crafted” adverts simply aren’t acceptable and it’s great that Delta is finally taking responsibility for this.
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.