Flight Attendants Seek Union Representation
By Steve Hall
October 24, 2011 - While Virgin tries to create “wow”
for Passengers its policies for flight attendants more
often meet with “say what?!” An overwhelming majority of
flight attendants at Virgin America, a low-cost carrier
known for high quality service and innovative onboard
amenities, has filed a petition at the National
Mediation Board (NMB) seeking union representation with
the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU).
Flying Virgin can be enjoyable for passengers but flight attendants have a very different experience,” TWU Organizing Director Frank MacCann said. “Work rules are inconsistently enforced, promises regarding rest, vacation and benefits are often broken, and discipline for minor violations can be unnecessarily harsh and inconsistently applied,” McCann said.
become difficult for flight attendants, who helped build this
company, to believe what management tells them. Flight
attendants realize that the only way they can improve their
working conditions is to form a union.” More than 650 flight
attendants work for Virgin America and are domiciled in San
Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Founded by British media
and transportation mogul Richard Branson, the airline began U.S.
operations in 2007 and flies to 12 U.S. cities and three
locations in Mexico.
very proud that Virgin America wins high marks from travelers,
based on the service we provide,” said Ramon Wood, a Virgin
flight attendant based at New York’s JFK. “We believe we can
make service better for passengers and elevate working
conditions for in-flight team members by having a voice in our
dealings with the company. Right now we’re seldom heard and our
concerns are not addressed,” he said. “This is why we turned to
members have a real track record of success at low-cost carriers
like Southwest and Allegiant, so we think this is a really good
fit.” Nearly 10,000 TWU members enjoy long-standing contractual
protections at Southwest, which carries more domestic passengers
than any other airline and has turned a profit for 38
More than two-thirds of Allegiant Airlines’ flight attendants voted in favor of TWU representation in December of 2010. In 2012, as a result of the merger between AirTran and Southwest, all of AirTran’s flight attendants will gain TWU representation. The union also has an organizing campaign underway at JetBlue Airlines.
at Branson’s Virgin Atlantic Airlines and subsidiary Virgin Australia
have voted to form unions with British and Australian labor unions. “We
want a union because we believe success for our company and success for
employees go hand in hand,” said Sherry Shoemake, a Virgin America
flight attendant from San Francisco.
“Sitting down to
negotiate a contract will give us a chance to put consistent rules in
place. We operate differently than many other airlines. We want a
contract that reflects and respects the Virgin America difference. We’re
not looking for some cookie-cutter contract, we want to ‘Virginize’
Mediation Board, which supervises union representation elections in the
transportation industry, is required to schedule an election within 45
days. Virgin America flight attendants will vote under new democratic
procedures approved by the NMB in 2010, which specify that elections
will be decided by a simple majority of those voting. In the past, any
worker who did not vote was counted as a “no” ballot. The new NMB rules
align voting procedures for railway and labor workers with those that
apply to all other private sector workers.
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