Labor organizers push for unionization at Delta


Labor organizers pushed for unionization of Delta Air Lines employees at a small rally before the company’s annual shareholders meeting in New York on Thursday.

The unions rallied in advance of a Delta annual meeting where stock owners voted against a shareholder proposal that would have prohibited the company from pressuring employees not to form or join a union.

Representatives of the Association of Flight Attendants, International Association of Machinists and International Brotherhood of Teamsters — who are seeking to organize a total of 45,000 Delta flight attendants, ground workers and mechanics — gathered outside the building where the Delta meeting took place.

Delta executives “always say that they absolutely support their employees’ right to join a union and their choice, but they spend millions and millions of dollars to deny that choice, to try to cool people from supporting the union,” said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants union, which has spent decades trying to organize workers at Delta.

“We’re out here to say that it’s time management take their own workers seriously,” Nelson said. “Delta pushed hard to stop a policy that would simply echo the basic rights of workers enshrined in international labor law.”

While other major airlines are highly unionized, Delta is mostly non-union, with the pilots as its only major union-represented group of employees.

Delta stock owners voted against the shareholder proposal that called for a non-interference policy to uphold rights to collective bargaining. The proposal was submitted by As You Sow, an environmental and social corporate accountability shareholder advocacy group, seeking a policy that would prohibit pressuring employees not to form or join a union.

Delta opposed the proposal, and said it would have asked the company “to voluntarily waive its rights under U.S. labor laws to directly engage with employees about important issues, including facts about representation, its impact on their work lives and their relationship with Delta.”

Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien responded in a fiery written statement, saying “Delta Air Lines needs to stop acting like a schoolyard bully and give its workers the respect that they deserve.”

“This means no longer forcing mechanics to sit through anti-union propaganda meetings full of lies and cheap scare tactics,” O’Brien added. “Every other major passenger carrier has a freedom of association policy for its workforce. It’s past time this company got with the program.”

Delta came under fire in 2019 for an anti-union flyer that encouraged workers to spend their money on a new video game system instead of union dues. The IAM filed election interference charges with the National Mediation Board, which declined to investigate the allegations.

Delta shareholders also voted Thursday on several other measures.

They voted in favor of a shareholder proposal requesting shareholder ratification of large severance or termination payments for senior managers.

It’s yet to be seen how Delta will respond to the request. Delta called the proposal “unnecessary given shareholders already have the means to express their views on executive compensation, including severance.”

Shareholders also voted to recommend the advisory votes on executive compensation be held every year.

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