Tuesday November 3rd was a day on which two allied parties were dealt crushing blows. The Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives was the first loss. The second was that Delta flight attendants handed a major loss to the Association of Flight Attendants, the union seeking to represent the combined workforce of Delta and the former Northwest Airlines.
This loss was despite the changes in rules about how elections were to be held. Prior to this election Delta had been victorious in two prior elections. But at that time if a flight attendant opted not to vote that lack of a vote was counted as a “NO” vote. This time the rules were changed and only the votes of people who actually cast a ballot were counted. Thus all the “NOs” actually had to show up and vote that way. So the non-union flight attendants had to be educated on the new process. Apparently Delta did a good job in this education process.
The union, AFA, also campaigned heavily. Here in the Atlanta area they benefited from public radio and TV commercials from the machinist union that touted how it was “good for America” that the Delta workers be unionized. It would mean that “we were fighting the Wall Street pirates”. Those commercials did not address the needs or concerns of the flight attendants but seemed to be designed to get the public to pressure any flight attendant they knew to vote for the union. An article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution entitled Delta Flight Attendants to Union: No Thanks quoted Barry Hirsch, a professor of economics at Georgia State University, who said “…too few Delta attendants saw a clear economic incentive to pay $43 a month in AFA dues. Because the airline industry is so highly unionized, there is little difference between pay, benefits and work rules between unionized airlines and non-union major airlines…”
The vote on the unionization was 51% against and 49% for. As typically happens in a union loss the AFA is crying “foul” and they plan on contesting the loss. They claim intimidation on the part of Delta management caused the election to turn out the way it did. The union was considered to have a good shot at winning this and according to the article they had even gone so far as to plan their victory celebration. As the article said “Given the presumed built-in support from Northwest workers and recent election rules changes favorable to organizers, the AFA was regarded as having a strong shot. The union planned a celebration at its Washington headquarters and had already scheduled initial training for union leaders.”
OOPS! This loss for the AFA is a major blow. Not only does it mean they will not get the Delta flight attendants they lose the former NW attendants. This is approximately 7000 people and at $43 a month in dues they are going to lose $3.6 million in revenue from no more dues. Maybe the union will have to lay some of their workers off. That would be an interesting development. Afterall unions are in the business of making money off of organizing employees. The loss of that revenue could put a major kink in their operations.
This loss may also have a chilling effect on the machinist vote for a union. And it could be tied into the general overall feeling about the direction of the country at this time. Time will tell.
I am happy that the flight attendants get to keep that $43 a month. Maybe they can use that money to stimulate the economy?