Did Delta Tell Employees Video Games Are More Valuable Than Unions?

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A Delta Airlines jet is prepared for flight at the Salt Lake International Airport August 12, 2005 in Salt Lake City, Utah. A Delta Airlines customer spoke out online against alleged abuse from a fellow traveler aimed at her size. George Frey/Getty Images

A photo of a poster that discourages Delta employees to join the union has gone viral for its argument that union fees would be better spent on video games. Discovered by Common Dreams editor Eoin Higgins, the poster is being lampooned for its tone deaf bargaining with the message "Union Dues cost around $700 a year. A new video game system with the latest hits sounds like fun. Put your money towards that instead of paying dues to the union."

lol fuck off @Delta pic.twitter.com/fMNOeW9uFG

— Eoin Higgins (@EoinHiggins_) May 9, 2019

If the poster is legitimate, Delta Airlines is seemingly attempting to bust a nascent union from forming within its workforce. The poster implies that instead of dealing with the bureaucracy and regular payments involved with union membership, workers could use that same money to purchase a subjectively "more fun" activity like a gaming console.

Newsweek has reached out to Delta Airlines and the Delta Workers Union for comment on the poster.

Newsweek also reached out to Higgins regarding the poster's legitimacy. He could not confirm its source but claims it is legitimate and not intended to be seen by public eyes.

The poster has been met with heavy criticism from Twitter users with many implicating that by introducing the union, workers could get better wages and afford that luxurious gaming console with ease. In one of the top tweets, @thegamesheet says "Bribing folks with their own money is some kinda something. Hooo boy." Many other Twitter users state that they won't be using Delta going forward after seeing this fairly hostile poster.

Delta Airlines's poster asks potentially interested parties to visit their specially made website for more reasons to avoid joining a union. On the site, Delta Airlines criticizes the parent union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (or the IAM for short). The crux of their argument is that the IAM will do anything to obtain signatures.

According to Delta, IAM agents will supposedly show up at worker homes unannounced, spam workers with pro-union missives via email or text, and show a complete disregard for worker privacy. Delta also states on their site that the IAM's deception begins at the Delta Workers Union nomenclature, which implies the IAM and Delta Workers Union are separate entities, despite being the same thing.

That's only from their site's homepage, further digging into the site reveals a Delta Airlines "myth-busting" page. On the page, Delta Airlines shoots down negative rumors about company practices, while confirming negative stories about the IAM.

Other site pages further denigrate IAM's experience with union negotiations. One page states that the IAM has no experience with negotiating with a company of Delta's size, citing how long it took to enact change in other companies. On that same page, Delta states that if negotiations continue current company benefits could be lost in the process. These include worker wages and the ability to trade shifts.

The website also provides links to 30 unlisted YouTube videos that all double down on what could be lost in the process and the IAM's "inherently deceptive" nature.

Conversely, what do Delta workers hope to gain from having a union presence? A few things they're requesting according to the union website:

  • A workplace free of management intimidation and favoritism.
  • Full benefits and seniority for all Delta ramp, cargo, and tower employees; including Ready Reserves.
  • No more second class citizens.
  • A defined-benefit pension plan that provides a secure retirement.
  • Affordable pre-Medicare retiree medical insurance.

You can see a full list of benefits on their site. Their primary goals are to end Delta's supposed favoritism and have benefits that are fair, or at least equal, to those given to Canadian Delta employees. The page also responds to Delta's claim that unions will invade worker homes unprompted with a poster titled "victory calling." The poster states. "Delta won't play by the rules. Their interference makes union discussion at work harder every day." According to the image, union representatives are only going to homes because it's the one place workers are safe from Delta's apparent omnipresence at the workplace.

If the gaming poster that spread on Twitter is an attempt by Delta to snuff out a potential workers union, it wouldn't be their first. According to a Business Insider post, Delta once de-unionized 17,000 workers when they merged with Northwest Airlines in 2008. Prior to the merger, Northwest was heavily unionized, while Delta was not. In the process of negotiations then-Delta CEO Richard Anderson convinced the unified employees of Northwest and Delta that the employee benefits provided by Delta surpassed what they could gain with the average union, causing 17,000 employees to lose their union membership.

Newsweek has reached out to Delta and the IAM and will update the story with their comments.

Update: Twitter users have found another, seemingly legitimate, anti-union poster featuring a football.

Oh wow. There’s another one. And it’s just as bad. Really, @Delta? #GameOverDelta pic.twitter.com/JsSMg1aBRb

— Machinists Union ✈️🚊🚀 (@MachinistsUnion) May 9, 2019

The IAM has also released a statement in regards to today:

"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 more than 40,000 Delta ground workers and flight attendants is succeeding.

"It is no coincidence that Delta re-launched a campaign against their own employees less than 24 hours after the IAM initiated the international component of our campaign. Yesterday, with the assistance of the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) and Amsterdam-based union FNV Cabine, Delta flight attendants were met in Amsterdam where they were able to sign cards supporting an IAM election outside of Delta's intimidating view.

"Delta's union-busting propaganda also coincides with the IAM's major outreach initiative to thousands of Delta ramp workers.

"Delta has resorted to defaming and spewing lies and misrepresentations about the IAM. They also continually display anti-IAM propaganda in the workplace. These are all hallmark signs of how well the IAM campaigns are doing and how scared Delta is of their employees having a voice in their careers.

"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 IAM is the world's largest airline union, representing more than 110,000 airline employees in North America. "

Higgins statement has also been adjusted to read "Not intended for public eyes," rather than "only available in areas that are inaccessible to the public."