We respect every employee’s right to support or not support representation by a third party. That does not mean that we are neutral on this question. Delta leaders have the right and the responsibility to share our opinion with Delta people. People making the important decision whether to sign an A-card need to have the facts.
Get the facts
Everything’s on the table
Union contract negotiations would start from a blank slate. There is simply nothing that says a first union contract starts with whatever pay, benefits or work rules are already in place and goes up from there. And negotiations are not a one-way process – both sides must agree; even the most valued work rule could be negotiated and, potentially, traded away.
During union campaigns, a lot of promises are made by organizers to entice people to sign cards or vote for representation. It takes a very long time —a multi-year negotiation process — to know whether the new work rules even resemble the promises of many months or even years back. In short, things can get better, get worse or stay the same. Negotiations start with a clean sheet of paper with everything up for review. Every benefit or work environment improvement that flight attendants have driven directly at Delta will be put on the table to be reconsidered, changed or even traded away.
HOW A UNION GETS CERTIFIED
Union organizers distribute A-Cards for signature. Signing an A-Card means that you want the National Mediation Board (NMB) – a federal agency – to hold a union election at Delta. The best way you can preserve what we have built together and ensure the future of The Delta Difference and your direct relationship is to NOT sign a card.
Cards are valid for one year from the date of signing. Even if an employee changes his or her mind, there is no requirement for the union to return the card to the employee. Once a union gathers A-Cards from 50% or more of a targeted employee group, they can file an application with the NMB to hold an election.
Should this occur, the NMB will then request a list of employees and signature samples from Delta. From there, the NMB will review each card against the information provided by Delta to ensure a sufficient number of cards signed by eligible voters were submitted. Validating cards and signatures is critical, as in a prior election application filed by the IAM for Delta flight attendants, there were cards with fraudulent signatures submitted.
The NMB conducts elections by secret ballot which can be cast by telephone or through a website. The votes would be tallied electronically by the NMB, which would then report the results to the union and to Delta.
Decertification – An Extremely Difficult Process
In July 2019, the National Mediation Board (NMB) amended its decertification regulations. However, decertification still remains very difficult to achieve. While the previous “straw man” requirement has been eliminated, it is still virtually impossible to return to union-free status in a large work group.
To do so, employees must submit authorization cards that “clearly and unambiguously state the employee’s desire to no longer be represented by their incumbent union.” The “showing of interest” requirement for employees is the same as that for unions seeking to become a representative: at least 50 percent of the employees in the workgroup must sign authorization cards within a one-year period. If that happens, an election must take place in which the majority of those voting choose to return to “no” representative status.
While the NMB has taken this modest pro-employee step toward simplifying the decertification process, AFA, IAM and other unions disagree even with that much, and have sued the Board seeking to undo the new regulation.
Contract Negotiations Primer
Collective bargaining is the process in which unions negotiate contracts with employers to establish the terms of employment, such as pay, benefits, and work rules. The bargaining process has no set schedule; it can drag on for many years before an agreement is reached. Under the Railway Labor Act (RLA), which governs airlines, when finally complete, these contracts remain in force until changed.
If a union wins an election, there are still years of work ahead, as the union and management review every aspect of comp, benefits and work rules to craft a contract. During this time — which was as long as 9 years for Spirit Airlines flight attendants — pay and benefits often remain “frozen” where they were at the outset of negotiations.
THE DETAILS ON DUES
- They’re mandatory: Once the union negotiates a “union security clause” (which is standard in the airline industry), paying dues is mandatory.
- If you decide you don’t want to pay dues, a union can require that you be terminated – and they have done so before. State “right to work” laws do not apply in the airline industry, so employees cannot opt out of paying dues.
- How much: Based on current dues paid at other airlines, Delta flight attendants and agents can expect to pay at least $600 per year. Regardless of how many hours you work or your step on the pay scale, a union charges the same amount of union dues.
- They do increase: Dues frequently increase each year, even for members whose pay may not rise. And there’s no upper limit.
HOW MANY YEARS WILL IT TAKE?
Nobody knows. Most unions have no experience negotiating an initial contract for a work group our size. Contract negotiations in the airline industry can take years. The union will name a list of demands on dozens of items, but for every request they bring to the negotiation table, days of meetings may be needed to either reach agreement or “agree to disagree.”