The National Education Association Threatens Boycott of Delta

The National Education Association, the teachers’ union, is threatening a boycott of Delta. Their President has sent a letter to Delta President Glen Hauenstein, and they’ve tweeted “We won’t be flying Delta.”

The issue here is union solidarity. While most of the US airline industry is unionized, only pilots and dispatchers are members of unions at Delta. The IAM, however, is attempting to organize flight attendants and fleet service workers.

The world started to notice that much of Delta is non-union when the airline’s campaign against the effort went viral last week thanks to extremely ham-handed messaging suggesting that employees should buy videogames instead of paying union dues.

If I were a flight attendant at United or American I’d likely be reluctant to give up my union. At Delta, on the other hand, they’re already the highest paid in the industry thanks to profit sharing, which is in part dependent on the airline’s culture and work rules. Delta has a strong argument to make, but was very much not making it.

Enter the 3 million member NEA, which purports to be interested not in their own financial well-being but to speak on behalf of “they students they serve” and which is concerned that Delta has made a “decision to undermine [their] union.” If they were grading their own letter as coursework they’d have to mark themselves down for failing to realize that the union at issue is not Delta’s union, and does not currently represent Delta’s flight attendants or fleet service workers.

The NEA calls efforts (no matter how ham-handed) to discourage employees from joining a union “union busting” which conjures images of violence or at least hiring replacement workers rather than communicating in writing why the company believes it and its employees are better off without a union.

Pinkerton guards escort strikebreakers in Buchtel, Ohio, 1884

Considering that the NEA considers Delta’s flyers to be “a blatant slap in the face of working people across the nation” what exactly are they doing about it?

Things they are not doing:

  • Refusing to allow NEA staff travel on Delta
  • Encouraging teachers not to fly Delta
  • Pressuring school districts not to use Delta for school trips
  • Asking parents not to fly Delta

Instead the NEA has declared that Delta will no longer be “one of the preferred airlines” for travel to the NEA’s Representative Assembly “with over 8000 delegates.” Delta will not be an official meeting vendor for an event.

Delta earned $5.1 billion in 2018. Delta themselves chose not to accept meetings business from the NRA. The NEA’s milquetoast move will not make a material difference to Delta.

It appears, then, that the NEA is looking for publicity without the attendant cost of taking real action. Here’s the NEA’s letter to Delta:

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Of the big US carriers I really like flying delta the best. Not sure who the NEA is but im inclined to continue my patronage of delta. The flight attendants and crew are far more likely to be happy in my experience and even when something goes wrong they seem more inclined to fix the problem in a time expedited manner. Example: I was flying out of Marquette Michigan (a very small regional airport when the plane was reported to have engine trouble, this was the last flight out of the day. Instead of delaying until the next am they actually flew in another plane (not a planned flight) so we could all leave an hour or so later and provided free food while waiting. I have never had AAL do that, and I dont happen to fly UAL enough to comment.

  2. Granted , PR is not what it used to be with Delta belittling its employees by invoking the alleged thrill of owning video games in comparison to union dues.

    However, the NEA elects to conveniently dismiss the fact that this element of Delta’s workforce has remained non-union for a distinguished period of time; motivated by consistent profit sharing and no uniform issues. Yet, the NEA elects to defend an element of Delta’s workforce that has not on the record called out for such awkward help.

    Given the pathetic state of education in this country, including the union anger at better performing charter schools than the public schools that simply churn out students who are re-cycled as unmotivated teachers; the exorbitant cost of college; the overall issue of the downward spiral in reading books and current events, let alone the absence of books in homes, the NEA would serve its alleged mission far better if it just stayed within the lines of its own coloring book.

    Unlike so many teachers, especially in NYC, forced to join the ineffective teacher’s union–or else; airline employees have the common sense and commitment to safety to know what’s best for them. Rather than perpetuating ‘going up the down staircase,’ Delta has focused on building a viable culture as supported by its work rules.

  3. Thanks for the heads up. I will be flying Delta as often as I can in the future.

  4. I am a public school teacher and I will continue to fly Delta almost exclusively.

  5. Totally agree with Rjb; I am going to increase my flying with Delta over this now.

  6. @mark – So – as to Charter schools posting better results, at least here in California, charters can ‘select ‘ their students…. thus not having to deal with English Language Learners or people with ‘Learning Disabilities ‘ so yeah they have ”better ‘ results. Basically private schools for the Middle and lower middle classes.

    Not really a reflection on teachers their skill-set or unions. More a reflection of a bad charter school law, and a lack of equal opportunity.

    As to Unions and Delta – if the FA’s don’t believe that a union will improve their lives, they won’t vote for one –

    Delta on the other-hand is treating its FA staff as if they are teenagers – oooh video games screw representation….

    That’s a lot of disrespect from Delta towards their staff, likely to make more consider a union, who feel that they should be respected.

    Personally as someone self employed I have no need or use for a union, but I think that Delta deserves the ire they have gotten over the way they managed this.

  7. There’s a reason why they have to use the phrase “union-busting” to invoke the imagery of the Pinkerton’s in the 1,800’s. That’s the last time unions were relevant. 3.6% unemployment rate means workers have all the power already.

  8. One is a bunch of thugs. The other a bunch of lying hypocrites. A pox on both of them.

  9. The NEA is weak and resorting to a weak argument. This has so much to do with the unions continued downward spiral after the 2016 elections. Go fly on a unionized carrier or hold your breath until you turn blue. At any rate its laughable at best.

  10. “Yet, your decisions to undermine your union will inevitably crash down on your employees …”

    I’m guessing they had trouble finding a unionized PR firm.

  11. It would be great if the NEA folks fly American. They deserve each other.

  12. As a flight attendant i can assure you there is nothing safe about our work rules. They force us to work past our “option off” point way too many times. You people have no idea how exhausted DAL crews really are. That’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as the behind the scenes issues you civilians will ever know or understand.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.