Delta Flight Attendants Vote Not To Unionize

Flight attendants at Delta rejected unionization in a vote that was tallied Wednesday. The no vote was a painful loss for the flight attendants who were unionized under Northwest Airlines. Now that Northwest and Delta have merged, there will be no union for any flight attendants.


In defeat for the labor movement, flight attendants at Delta Airlines have voted not to form a union.

But as NPR's Jim Zarroli reports, other employees at the airline will also vote soon on whether to join unions.

JIM ZARROLI: Delta is the last major U.S. carrier that is largely non-unionized. The airline's recent merger with the unionized carrier Northwest had raised hopes in the labor movement that organization efforts might finally succeed. Yesterday, union officials said Delta's 20,000 flight attendants had narrowly rejected a union. It was a big disappointment for labor, but the campaign isn't over.

Nelson Lichtenstein, a professor of history at the University of California at Santa Barbara, says other employee groups are voting whether to unionize in coming weeks. And if they succeed, it could raise support for a union at Delta.

Dr. NELSON LICHTENSTEIN (University of California, Santa Barbara): If the machinists and the ground personnel vote in favor of the union in the next election, then a couple of years down the line, the flight attendants may have another election, and they would join. That's happened in the past.

ZARROLI: Lichtenstein says the flight attendants' campaign might have failed because of the weak economy. He says in difficult economic times, workers are often afraid that starting a union will put pressure on their employers, which can lead to layoffs.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

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