The heartbreaking 2010 loss of a union election at Delta Air Lines by a mere 280 votes meant that 16,000 ramp workers would not be represented by the International Association of Machinists (IAM). The last 13 years have been marked by several unsuccessful attempts at unionization. A combination of firing key activists, intimidation, intense anti-union propaganda and occasional pay raises kept these periodic attempts from succeeding.
Driven by short staffing, heavy handed management and wages that have not kept up with inflation, the fight for a union at Delta has erupted again. Led by the 5,000 ramp and cargo workers at Delta’s Atlanta Worldport, organizing committees have formed coast to coast in 46 cities served by Delta Air Lines. Rank and file organizing committees are a combination of tested veterans of past campaigns and younger workers whose outlook has been shaped by the 2020 George Floyd rebellions, the Covid pandemic and sharpening polarization in society.
The ramp and cargo organizing campaign has received significant reinforcements from the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT). The three unions have formed a coalition to organize over 50,000 workers at Delta, with the AFA taking on 24,000 flight attendants, the IAM taking 18,000 ramp and cargo workers and the Teamsters taking on 10,000 mechanics, making this the largest union campaign in the United States today. This united effort stands in stark contrast to the situation that existed only three years ago when the AFA and IAM were engaged in a destructive competition for the flight attendant group.
Twin Cities DSA members, union members and social movement activists will have a chance to show support for these workers this coming Saturday, April 15 at a Solidarity Rally. Starting at 4:00 pm at the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation (353 West 7th St. in St. Paul), speakers will include Sara Nelson, President of the AFA, Richie Johnsen, newly elected leader of the Transportation Territory of the IAM and Tom Erickson, Vice President of the Midwest Region of the IBT. Delta workers from Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis and New York’s JFK airport will be speaking as well. They will be joined by Starbucks workers and workers from the Amazon warehouse in Shakopee. Please join us to show Delta our community supports Delta workers and won’t tolerate union busting.
By Kip H