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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Well, we certainly know that AA FA’s do NOT love their job or their company or their passengers. So what would the be anti love approach to AA acquiring a completely different union or union leadership?

    AA FA’s certainly should be making a better compensation. The fact that they are not receiving it reflects badly upon the FA’s that have tolerated this situation without doing anything but complain and drop service to passengers to an all time low.

    Bravo to Delta for being willing to step up and recognize that they don’t fly without a cabin crew where again they only have to look at AA to see how AA isn’t flying with all of the cancellations, delays and dumping crap experiences on their customers.

    Frankly, even though I am a million miler, have a million miles in my account and ex plat, it would be worth losing all of that to see AA go under and take their management with them.

  2. Don’t they realize (and I’m sure the union doesn’t tell them this part) that when you vote them in and go to negotiate an initial contract, it’s a blank sheet of paper? You do not start with what you have today. You could end up worse off. Or more strings attached to current pay.

    At an airline where I worked, the ramp unionized. Yeah, they got a $3 an hour pay increase in the contract. And then they lost free parking at work and lost medical coverage for dependents of part timers.

  3. Hey Gary, when are you going to apologize and comment on your post yesterday regarding the MAGA hat Karen? Live and Let’s Fly has all the information you need that it was fake and you were gullible, as usual. Or will you just sit there quietly and post credit card links until you find your next click bait junk that you vett for what, 30 seconds?

    Dude, you are not a thought leader. You are a thought monetizer. Get with the program and don’t be part of the problem.

  4. Why would Delta want AFA really makes me laugh!! We’ve been negotiating for years with no boarding pay and the company constantly breaks the contract we currently have all the time with NO plenty. The union tells us to file a grievance and then nothing positive comes from it.
    It’s a joke! Just like these negotiations. One big joke!!

    Delta makes more than UA. At UA we are miserable with AFA. The AFA only wants Delta so the union leaders pockets get deeper. AFA focus on your current representation first before trying to trick delta into falling for the union trap.

  5. Lying is so much a part of airline culture in the USA that this approach to getting the union dues is to be considered normal.

  6. Lot of flight attendant are spiteful people who only want their nrsa benefits. It a shame. They are paid well as a high school graduate requirement but greedy

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  8. NedsKid,

    But that’s the whole point of unionization isn’t it? Whatever Delta flight attendants have today might as well be blank sheet of paper as the management can change their pay, workouts etc with a stroke of a pen tomorow . Nothing that they have currently is legally binding.

  9. I spent 3 years working TechOps at DAL. In my role, I worked closely with the mechanics (who were implementing my engineering changes) and the FA’s (my responsibilities included galleys, overhead bins, and lavatories, so I coordinated with them closely). My experience was that most of the people I talked with came to DAL because they did not want to work in a union environment (I knew two really skilled A&P mechanics who grew up in Tulsa but moved to Atlanta expressly to avoid the unions at AA). They also recognized that the threat of unionization was a much more effective tool than any collective bargaining could be. If one of the groups was unhappy about something, all they had to do was bring in a union to start a unionization effort and the airline management would fold to that pressure.

  10. We gonna see AFA take a page from the IAM in 2015 and fake fraudalent signatures on A-Cards then claim Delta employees have voted for a union?

  11. John in GA is exactly right. Unions are like herpes, once you get it, it keeps on giving for life. EVERYTHING is frozen at status quo. EVERYTHING then becomes negotiable. While all non union employees get raises, bonuses, profit sharing, medical, etc., the union thugs must negotiate every contract and the workers are stuck with it until the contract becomes negotiable. The current administration LOVES unions because part of the member’s dues go into the pockets of the administration that promote…well…unions. Unions were great in the past for disrupting child labor and raising the bar for wages and benefits. Not any more…they feather the union’s nest at the expense of the worker. Again…like herpes….

  12. Right up there with the most stupid unionizing campaigns in airline history! They are betting the farm on content Delta flight attendants believing the destructive, divisive, money hungry unions can make things better. All they have to do is look around at the unions impact on their competitors!

  13. I love all of the union hater comments on here. Most anti-union people i know tend to be republican. It’s odd because Republicans are usually the ones waving flags calling themselves patriotic and loving the American way. The American way is that we have checks and balances in our system. We love that about our system. We love democracy too. So…do you realize one of the most democratic (not the Democratic party), check amd balance things is a union? Who checks corporate greed? Without a union, nobody!

    You can argue all day long about the corruption of a union, but that’s bs based on old tropes of the mob controlling unions.

    Sure, some members aren’t going to like everything the union does; that’s because they may have surveyed the entire work group and some peoples’ wants and needs won’t be in the majority. But…at least you have the power to vote in new members to advocate for your cause or campaign your fellow coworkers to believe in your cause and tell the reps for the next negotiations. Or run for union rep yourself. What is the alternative Without a union? You take what you’re given. If u don’t like it, you complain about your job. So…complain about your company and get nothing or complain about your union and do something about it? Democracy. Check & balance.

  14. @Ed bastian: I’m a union hater and am as democratic as it gets. I work for United, previously Continental, and the union has not helped me out a single time in 25 years. The company has come to my aid every single time to solve my problems, and they done a great job for me. God forbid Delta becomes unionized, because then there will not longer be an incentive for any airline to keep high flight attendant wages. It would be a race to the bottom for everybody. Delta is our checks and balance system.

  15. AFA wants a piece of that Georgia Peach pie!

    2% of your dues for, what again? To become a *follower* when it comes to flight attendant compensation?

    last I heard, Delta doesn’t suck for a company to work for (for now). I’m trying to understand what Delta is doing to its FAs that mandate/require a union.

  16. I worked for two, at one time, “Fortune 50” companies. Each polemicaly opposites regarding unions. Kodak…non union; Xerox…union. over the years, efforts were made to unionize Kodak. Over the years all efforts to organize Kodak resoundingly failed. Kodak, at that time had hourly wages, salaries and bonuses to rival any union. Working conditions and profitbility were exceptional. Lack of a union made my job in procurement much easier

    But, even with the basic tenent always operable: Management wants to pay nothing, and employees want an infinite amount of pay, if management is perceived to offer an equitable wage and beyond acceptable working conditions, contracts and unions are not necessary.

  17. @Ed bastian. I love your parody of the if A then B, if B then C, if C then D, etc. cascade. If you like puppies…….then you must love Hitler.

    I do love pointing out that the best features of th US constitution are the undemocratic parts. What to stifle my speech? No popular vote, no vote through elected representatives can do that (absent supermajorities to amend) can do that. Democracy is fantastic, but it must not be used to bully others. Nose rings on others annoy me; should I be able to get enough friends together to ban it?

  18. At least get you bullet points correct regarding the MEC officers and the way most aviation unions work.
    The MEC officers are an administrative roles who work for the MEC, and the MEC are directly elected by the flight attendants, and the MEC/LEC work for the flight attendants.

    The MEC officers are the bottom of the power structure, with the FA elected MEC/LEC above them, and the FAs above them.

    Same as within ALPA

  19. I’ve been a Delta FA for 13 years and NEVER have I wanted a union. I don’t want to give up my annual raises and pay union dues instead. I love my job and Delta, and I feel well compensated so I cannot imagine what a union could improve upon. If it became union it would attract more lazy coworkers and would not be the same. Delta is great because it IS nonunion.

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