February 1, after a heroic four-year effort by the Delta flight
attendants, assisted by AFA staff and AFA flight attendant member
organizers, the votes were counted in the first ever union representation
election for the flight attendants at Delta Air Lines.
AFA to be certified as the Delta flight attendants’ representative under
National Mediation Board rules, 50 percent plus one of the 19,033 flight
attendants eligible to vote had to return their ballots. When the
votes were counted, just 5,609 had the courage to return their ballot, not
enough to finally achieve a voice at work. 5,520 of the votes cast
were for AFA, while just 89 votes were cast for “other”. That
means AFA received 98 percent of the votes cast and, under any other
election procedure -- like the procedure used in most elections in America
where the party that receives the majority of votes cast wins -- we would
have been the winner; but not under NMB rules.
management’s multi-million dollar illegal campaign of intimidation, fear
and harassment succeeded in interfering with the flight attendants’
legal right to choose a union, and silenced their voices.
That campaign included tactics like Delta's management lying to its over
3,000 furloughed flight attendants by falsely saying they weren't eligible
to vote. That lie potentially kept over 3,000 flight attendants from
returning their ballots. In fact, these flight attendants were
eligible to vote and had sufficient motivation to return their ballots
after being furloughed with no real recall rights.
the Delta flight attendants’ behalf, AFA has already filed charges of
illegal interference with the NMB. The NMB is the government agency with
the responsibility to conduct elections for union representation and to
ensure that the workers’ right to vote is protected.
NMB has conducted a preliminary investigation and already found that the
evidence against Delta presents a prima facie case of interference
by Delta management. The NMB will now proceed with a thorough
investigation to determine an appropriate remedy to level the playing
field and to provide the flight attendants with a free and fair election,
as they deserve.
new election may be ordered by the NMB, bypassing the normal one-year
waiting period for another election. We will argue forcefully that
the NMB should order a special circumstances election, changing the rules
in order to counteract management’s interference and ensure that the
flight attendants’ right to freely choose union representation is
is precedent for setting a new election with special circumstances.
It’s called a “Laker” ballot, named for the airline where an earlier
disputed election took place. A “Laker” ballot election would
eliminate the 50% + 1 participation threshold. In its place, AFA
would need to get the votes of a majority of those who cast a ballot
in order to win, rather than requiring a majority of those eligible to
cast a ballot. This standard would be just like the rules for any
other democratic election run in America.
investigation into Delta’s interference should be completed within 60
days. We will obviously cooperate with the NMB to the fullest extent.
Given the effectiveness of management’s interference, we believe the
only realistic chance for the Delta flight attendants to have a fair
election, and for AFA to be certified as the bargaining representative, is
through a decision to level the playing field with a “Laker” type
we await the final decision of the NMB, we will begin the process of
shutting down the fully staffed Organizing Department, retaining only
those staff necessary to assist the NMB investigation.
the politically appointed and politically sensitive members of the
Mediation Board lack the courage to give the Delta flight attendants an
election free from illegal interference and simply call for a re-run of
the election under the current procedures, then it is very unlikely
that a new election will have a different result from this first election.
In that case, further investment of AFA members’ dues money would not be
justified and I would recommend that we not commit a significant
level of resources to a new election.
the members of the NMB recognize the right of the Delta flight attendants
to choose union representation without undue influence, and order an
election with special circumstances that truly attempts to eliminate Delta
management's illegal interference, then we can win and we must
recommit ourselves to this effort. At that point, we will reinstate
sufficient staff to run a Get-Out-The-Vote campaign and work again to gain
a voice at work for the Delta flight attendants and to consolidate the
economic and political power of all flight attendants.
you, I look back over the many events that conspired to prevent the Delta
flight attendants from gaining a voice in their workplace and a binding
contract to cover their wages, work rules and benefit packages. When
we filed for this election on August 29, 2001, we had momentum. The
acts of terrorism committed on September 11 pushed our industry into an
economic crisis and created great uncertainty for our personal safety and
our job security. Delta management was relentless in its efforts to
persuade the Delta flight attendants that they were part of the Delta
“family” and would always be cared for by the airline. Even
after receiving funds from taxpayers as part of the government bailout to
prevent the bankruptcy of airlines, Delta continued to spend unprecedented
amounts of money to persuade the Delta flight attendants they did not need
a binding contract.
management of Delta Air Lines even went so far as to exploit the events of
September 11 by implying to their flight attendants that in this era of
heightened patriotism it is unpatriotic to vote to join a union and have a
true voice in your workplace.
They told flight attendants in one-on-one discussions that, in light of
September 11, they should remove their AFA pins.
can never forget a simple fact that Delta management has conveniently
ignored: it was unionized workers who lost their lives on
September 11, and it was union workers who responded to the tragedy of
September 11 and worked around the clock for days in an effort to find and
save any possible survivors of the event. There is no more
patriotic institution in America than America’s unions.
are reminded that there is a reason that interference with a worker’s
right to freely choose to join a union is illegal – it works. Once
again in this hard fought election, we see the results of management’s
expensive and illegal activities. The Delta flight attendants who are part
of this campaign deserve a voice in their workplace. And if they are
granted a level playing field by the NMB, the flight attendant members of
the Association of Flight Attendants should continue to fully support
their efforts to join the family of unionized flight attendants in this
country. In a fair election, we will win.