Thursday, September 30, when union voting began, marked a glimmer of hope in the lives of 21,000 flight attendants at Delta Airlines, even though many of them may not see it. I am a Delta flight attendant and have been for over 20 years. It is a job I enjoy and treasure. After this election and a contract has been ratified, we hope we will again earn a livable wage.
I have never seen a more divisive campaign waged against a work group. We have been informed that our organizing tactics aren’t “Christian!” A company slogan was adopted: “If you vote for AFA you no longer work for Delta.” I choose to add “No, you work WITH them!” We have flight attendants being paid to perform “special sssignments” encouraging us to vote against the union as we report for work.
9-11-01 was the beginning of the end for the airline. Delta entered bankruptcy and, overnight, we lost 40% or our compensation and benefits. Our pensions were frozen. USAirways tried to acquire the company in a hostile takeover. The employees, along with Delta management, did all we could to resist this partnering by appealing to Congress and any legislator that would listen. We wore pins saying “Keep Delta My Delta!” The deal wasn’t approved, much to our relief.
We had our first vote for representation by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA). It was a dismal failure. Employees felt an emotional attachment to a company that no longer existed. Richard Anderson was hired, he was a former Vice President for Northwest Airlines and also formerly legal counsel at Continental during the Lorenzo years.
Anderson was responsible for outsourcing some of Northwest’s Asian flying to low-paid foreign contract employees.
Northwest flight attendants’ contract restricted the percentage, but when they entered bankruptcy they pushed to outsource a much higher percentage. The Association of Flight Attendants negotiated pay cuts in order to save some of the jobs.
Again in the spring of 2009, we had our second union election. It seemed promising, but the union busting team that was hired to thwart our effort was successful. Delta submitted a list of “eligible to vote” employees to the National Mediation Board. If it weren’t for the dead, incapacitated or workers on long-term medical disability that padded the list, we would have had the vote.
We merged with AFA representing Northwest Airlines. Due to their flight attendant group equalling 40% or more of our work force, another petition for a vote was triggered. The voting begins September 29th and concludes November 3rd.
It isn’t easy. My fellow workers are telling me they can no longer associate with me due to my pro-union stance. As an organizer, I have been yelled at and demeaned in the aisle in front of passengers for my views. Every day a new flier or DVD arrives in my home mail box encouraging me to protect my future and vote against representation.
The management loyalists parade as lemmings with tags adhered to their luggage stating “NO WAY AFA!” I stand proudly adorning my lapel with a simple white AFA pen. I am entitled to a voice regarding my future. I deserve to be a respected and be a part of a democratic process that will empower over 21,000 flight attendants.