- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

A union representing flight attendants took a major step yesterday toward organizing the employees of Delta Air Lines, the only major airline whose flight attendants are not unionized.
The Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) filed a petition with the National Mediation Board (NMB) seeking to hold a unionizing election for the Atlanta-based airline's 2,000 attendants.
"What time is it?" a union organizer shouted into a microphone at a rally of members and supporters in Franklin Square Park, across the street from NMB headquarters. "Union time," about 150 union members and supporters chanted in response.
The union says its organizing drive is the biggest unionization effort in airline history.
"Eighty-five percent of flight attendant work forces are unionized," said Dawn Deeks, AFA spokeswoman. "After this election, 98 percent will be unionized. That's a huge percentage of the work force."
The union represents about 50,000 flight attendants, including those at United Airlines and Arlington-based US Airways. The NMB required the union to present it with signatures of support from at least 35 percent of Delta's eligible workers to get a unionization election. More than 50 percent of the workers must return mailed ballots approving a union before the AFA could represent them.
So far, Delta has avoided unionization by paying the highest hourly wages in the airline industry to flight attendants. The attendants' concerns about job security have risen in recent years with airline consolidations, which they say could eliminate the need for many of their jobs. They also complained about frequent management decisions to change work rules.
"Benefits and work rules are slowly being chipped away," Miss Deeks said. "We've reached a point where we've said enough is enough."
Delta officials said the lack of rigid union rules has helped them remain competitive.
"That gives us the flexibility to be able to respond to changes in the industry to keep us in a leadership position," said Cindi Kurczewski, Delta spokeswoman. "This is a rapidly changing industry."
She also said she expected the union drive to fail.
"We are confident that our flight attendants will continue to resist attempts at unionization, as they have done in the past," Mrs. Kurczewski said.
Members of several other unions including the Communication Workers of America, the American Federation of Teachers and the United Auto Workers joined in the rally.
Flight attendant Scott Hayter, who was at the rally, said he felt he had no voice in his own career at Delta.
"We want our pay, work rules and benefits in writing," Mr. Hayter said. "We want job security."
Delta flight attendant Joan Harvey said the airline management often makes decisions that affect employees without consulting them. However, she said, "I love my job and I love my company. This is only a business decision."


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