Organizing a Union at JetBlue
5,000 Flight Attendants at JetBlue have filed for a union election
17 years ago, JetBlue launched looking to bring humanity back to flying. With their low costs, leather seats and TV’s on every seat, they quickly became a consumer favorite and pushed other airlines to adopt their changes. While all looked rosy on the outside, the flight attendants who work for JetBlue began to experience many of the problems that staff at the major airlines faced. To fix these problems, the JetBlue flight attendants have announced that they are forming a union.
Talk of organizing has been going on for months at JetBlue. Over the summer, talk of the employees organizing leaked out and in September JetBlue Vice President John Culp sent a letter to all inflight crew that sought to scare the employees away from joining the union. Some of the claims in the letter accused the union of being criminals and said that involving a third party was a bad idea.
While JetBlue tried to scare their inflight employees, the Transport Workers Union (TWU) continued to talk with and organize the workers. On December 6th, JetBlue employees will be going to Washington DC to formally file paperwork to form a union. At major airports around the country, employees who have signed union cards will be flyering and talking to their co-workers about the importance of voting yes to the union.
While JetBlue has expanded to 101 destinations throughout the Western Hemisphere, their base is still located in New York. At their hub, JFK Airport, 2,200 employees signed union cards, representing nearly half of the bargaining unit. With 4,800 new members, TWU has said that the JetBlue employees will be forming their own local.
While JetBlue has historically been ranked as a good place to work, including being listed on Forbes Top 20 places to work list, employees say that as JetBlue has gotten bigger the “family style” atmosphere has changed into a more corporate one. “We don’t have a seat at the table,” a flight attendant who didn’t want to be named told Forbes. “Policy changes are made arbitrarily without the flight attendants’ best interest at heart. If crew services [which oversees flight attendants] does something that is against work rules, there is no accountability.”
While JetBlue spreads lies about the union in an effort to bust their union, TWU believes that they are in a strong place. Not only do they have significant support within the workforce, but they also just reached a tentative agreement for flight attendants at Allegiant Air. The contract, which was their first, took 6 years to negotiate but includes 33% raises over the 5 years of the contract and increases to vacation time and compensation during long delays.
The flight attendants hope to hold a vote in early 2018.