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Delta Air Lines Flight Attendants Unveil Surprising ‘Love’ Campaign for Unionization

At the beginning of the year, one American Airlines flight attendant put out a warning to aspiring cabin crew: don’t become a flight attendant unless you’re going to Delta. You’d think that efforts to unionize flight attendants at Delta face an uphill battle – and they do.

That’s why the latest tactics of Sara Nelson’s AFA-CWA are so interesting. Usually they’d be inclined to attack the company, and to attack management. AFA-CWA has a scoring system at United which reports on flight attendant unhappiness at United. 91% of AFA-CWA union members at United feel unvalued by their company and 99% feel their issues are unresolved.

Yet at Delta they’re promoting the opposite – “We love our jobs–and that’s why we want a union.”

I find this pitch fascinating for several reasons.

  • It’s not factually accurate to claim “We’re forming our union led by and for Delta Flight Attendants” since AFA bylaws say that flight attendants cannot directly elect its Master Executive Council officers and international officers. A proposal to change that failed last month.

  • They’re framing this to Delta employees as though it’s a collegial action, rather than a confrontational one. A new union contract, under the Railway Labor Act, will take years to negotiate. American Airlines flight attendants had their contract become amendable four and a half years ago and haven’t seen a raise since January 1, 2019. Yet the suggestion is that this is being done out of love for the company. You’d expect that flight attendants who support a union would do so because they want someone to fight the company! Is this going to be a ‘company union’ which is mostly what we’ve seen out of APFA at American, supporting the return of ‘attendance points’ (penalties for taking sick days) coming out of the pandemic and never uttering a word of criticism for management when they furloughed more flight attendants than any other airline in the world?

  • It seems like union drive supporters finally have an example where (a different) union negotiated pay that’s at least comparable to what Delta flight attendants already receive, though Delta cabin crew don’t have to pay union dues to get it. Southwest’s new pay deal at least makes it harder to say every union flight attendant group earns less.

It used to be that Delta pay was head and shoulders above all other flight attendant pay in the industry. Delta gives annual raises rather than freezing pay for five years at a time while new contracts are negotiated at unionized peers.

Southwest Airlines gave its flight attendants a new contract with increased wages and even retro pay to make up for years of contract negotiations without an increase. Now whether Southwest or Delta pays more depends on the flight attendant.

A lineholder with 80 hours at Delta will make more than a comparable employee at Southwest, accounting for boarding pay and profit sharing.

Southwest flight attendants, of course, also clean planes between flights and only work Boeing 737 short haul flying.

Flight attendants represented by AFA-CWA at United are deeply unhappy, according to the union itself. United cabin crew have been in protracted labor negotiations. No AFA-CWA flight attendant local has negotiated boarding pay (pay for time on the aircraft during boarding), something Delta added voluntarily two years ago. Delta crew should ask if they want the experience of United crew that have been represented by AFA-CWA for years.

This article originally appeared on View From The Wing

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