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'Corporate Greed, Plain and Simple': Sanders Leads Senate Letter Pressuring Delta to End 'Demeaning' Anti-Union Campaign

"We urge you to end Delta's anti-union tactics, and allow Delta workers to decide the question of unionization free from fear, intimidation, or retaliation."

An anti-union poster by Delta went viral last week, drawing intense backlash on social media. (Image: International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers)

As the union attempting to organize Delta employees filed a federal complaint accusing the company of unlawful and far-reaching interference—which has included literature encouraging workers to spend their pay on video games instead of union dues—Sen. Bernie Sanders and eight of his colleagues sent a letter to the airline giant's CEO on Wednesday calling for an end to the "insulting and demeaning" campaign.

"Your attempts to deny the right of Delta workers to form a union is corporate greed, plain and simple," reads the letter to Delta CEO Ed Bastian, which was led by Sanders and signed by Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Robert Casey (Penn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ed Markey (Mass.), and Jeff Merkley (Ore).

"Last week, the public was able to see what many behind the walls of Delta have always known; that Delta will go to great lengths to suppress their employees' collective voices."
—Sito Pantoja, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

The letter, which can be read in full below, cites Delta management's "constant barrage of literature" and other brazen tactics aimed at dissuading workers from unionizing.

Last week, a Delta poster urging employees to purchase a "new video game system with the latest hits" rather than paying union dues went viral, providing the latest evidence of the airline company's systematic anti-union campaign.

"The lengths that your management team has gone to prevent your employees from having a voice in their future are unacceptable," wrote the senators. "We urge you to end Delta's anti-union tactics, make it clear to all of your managers that they should do the same, and allow Delta workers to decide the question of unionization free from fear, intimidation, or retaliation."

The senators' letter came as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), the world's largest airline union, filed a federal complaint (pdf) Wednesday accusing Delta of illegal anti-union activity, including:

  • Disciplining and firing union activists;
  • Destroying union campaign materials;
  • Changing company policies to further frustrate unionization; and
  • Cornering employees in one-on-one meetings to interrogate them and attempt to influence their actions.

"Last week, the public was able to see what many behind the walls of Delta have always known; that Delta will go to great lengths to suppress their employees' collective voices," IAM general vice president Sito Pantoja said in a statement. "Now is a chance to right this injustice, support workplace democracy, and stand up for Delta workers."

In a tweet late Wednesday, IAM thanked the nine senators for calling attention to Delta's anti-union campaign and pressuring the company to end it:

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Read the senators' full letter:

Dear Mr. Bastian:

We write to express our serious concerns regarding Delta's insulting and demeaning anti-union communications directed at the airline's non-union workforce. Delta must not interfere in its workers constitutional right to form a union and join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

It has become clear that Delta's management has a highly coordinated and strategic plan to suppress the efforts of over 40,000 workers from voting to join the IAM. The time has come for Delta to respect all of its workers’ fundamental right to freedom of association and stop bombarding employees with anti-union propaganda.

The lengths that your management team has gone to prevent your employees from having a voice in their future are unacceptable. According to accounts that have reached our offices, Delta has been pushing a constant barrage of literature that includes misrepresentations, mischaracterizations and falsehoods to employees in their break rooms and employee lounges, and the company intranet "DeltaNet" is being used to further your anti-union bias. These actions violate the dignity and respect of all Delta workers and need to stop.

Mr. Bastian, you earned almost $40 million in the last two years while paying workers who make Delta Air Lines arguably the most financially successful airline on the planet as little as $9 per hour. Thousands of your employees live paycheck to paycheck and seek IAM representation to better their lives. Instead of allowing Delta workers to decide whether unionizing is right for them free from your influence, you have directed your management to actively interfere with the efforts of your workers to decide this question for themselves.

You apparently also foresee that IAM representation would increase compensation and benefits for Delta employees. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be spending millions of dollars to dissuade your employees from unionizing.

Let’s be clear. Your attempts to deny the right of Delta workers to form a union is corporate greed, plain and simple. If Delta workers gain union representation they will finally have the right to collectively bargain with Delta for a living wage, decent benefits and safe working conditions.

We urge you to end Delta's anti-union tactics, make it clear to all of your managers that they should do the same, and allow Delta workers to decide the question of unionization free from fear, intimidation or retaliation.

Sincerely,

Senators Bernard Sanders, Sherrod Brown, Robert P. Casey, Jr., Ron Wyden, Tammy Baldwin, Richard Blumenthal, Edward J. Markey, Elizabeth Warren, Jeff Merkley

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