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Delta to Employees: Who Needs a Union When You Can Have an Xbox?

Fliers in employee break rooms have even gotten the attention of some prominent politicians

by Rex Santus
May 10 2019, 6:09pm

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Delta Air Lines says it supports employees’ right to “decide if a union is right for them,” but fliers left in the break rooms indicate otherwise.

The fliers, which have been around for about a year but only came to light Thursday on Twitter, use typical anti-labor rhetoric about union dues to dissuade workers from organizing. In this case, they suggested dues money could be better spent on video games and beer.

“Union dues cost around $700 a year,” one flier said. “A new video game system with the latest hits sounds like fun. Put your money towards that instead of paying dues to the union.”

Another similarly framed poster included a drawing of a football.

“What does $700 mean to you?” it said. “Nothing’s more enjoyable than a night out watching football with your buddies. All those union dues you pay every year could buy a few rounds.”

Delta confirmed to VICE News that the fliers are real and were distributed to employee break rooms. And in a statement with an anti-union tone, the airline said it supported its employees’ right to decide whether to join a union.

“Delta has shared many communications, which on the whole make clear that deciding whether or not to unionize should not be taken lightly,” the statement said.

Union dues are what keep unions running by, in part, financing the salaries of attorneys and other organizers who help unionize workplaces and negotiate with bosses. They also provide money for strike and other welfare funds for members. In states with right-to-work laws, workers can opt out of paying union dues, which cripples unions’ power and leverage against managers. While it’s true that most workers do pay money to be union members, contracts typically include provisions that guarantee workers pay raises well beyond what they’re paying in dues.

The International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, which is currently collecting union cards with Delta ground workers and flight attendants in an attempt to unionize them, was unsurprisingly furious about the posters.

“Delta Air Lines’ all-out assault on their employees’ legally-protected right to unionize with the Machinists Union is confirmation that our campaign to bring the benefits of IAM-representation to 40,000 Delta ground workers and flight attendants is succeeding,” the Machinists Union said in a statement.

“The day when Delta ramp workers and flight attendants will finally be able to bargain for the compensation, benefits and work rules they deserve is coming quickly, and that has Delta terrified.”

The airline managed to piss off some pretty important people, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, a 2020 candidate for president.

“Delta told employees to buy video games instead of forming a union. What a disgrace,” Sanders tweeted Thursday. “Delta's CEO made nearly $22 million in 2017 while paying ramp agents as little as $9/hour. I say to Delta: Stop trying to undercut workers' right to form a union and negotiate for better wages.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, called the posters “condescending bullshit” and pointed out that union contracts offer workers a whole lot more than a gaming console or a night at the ballpark.

People outside of Congress had a more old-fashioned idea for how to respond to Delta.

Cover: In this July 12, 2016, file photo, workers unload baggage from a Delta Air Lines flight at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport in Linthicum, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)