As Voting Begins, JetBlue Makes One Last Effort to Bust Union
After JetBlue employees trying to organize got the backing of NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, management really lost their cool
Flight attendants at JetBlue are organizing with the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and management it not too happy. Instead of voluntarily recognizing the union, they have instead hired union-busters to try and convince the inflight crewmembers to vote no.
As UCOMM previously reported after word reached management that there was an organizing drive going on, the company began sending out flyers and emails to the nearly 5,000 employees attacking TWU and encouraging them to refuse to sign an authorization card. That effort failed and in December, TWU filed for an election with the National Labor Relations Board.
In the months in between the filing and the election, which began this week, TWU locals from around the country submitted videos of support for the Jet Blue employees and the union included these videos in their targeted digital ads. On Monday afternoon, just as ballots were beginning to hit employees mailboxes, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted “JetBlue Inflight Crewmembers deserve the protection of a trade union. Good luck with the vote.” This was an important endorsement as the company is based in New York and the vast majority of people voting are based at Kennedy Airport. It is also uncommon for a sitting Governor to take sides in a union vote, especially when they come out in support of it. John Samuelson, the International President of TWU, said that he has never seen a Governor publicly support a union campaign like this.
The response from the company was swift. A statement from b6direct.com, the site that Jet Blue and their unionbusting firm set up to encourage no votes, said “Governor Cuomo tweeted his support of our workgroup’s unionization. Coincidentally, TWU has also made at least $60,000 in donations to Governor Cuomo’s campaign. TWU’s political lobbying is paid for [with] TWU member dues,” the site said. “Is this how you’d want your hard-earned money being spent? A tweet from Gov. Cuomo cost TWU members $759.50 per character. TWU’s political lobbying is funded by its members’ dues.”
Rather than dealing in fact, JetBlue has decided to take the low road and lie to their employees. As President Samuelson notes, none of the political contributions to Governor Cuomo came from membership dues. Instead they come from a separate political fund, often times called COPE. Donations to this fund are voluntary.
In recent days, other New York politicians on both sides of the political aisle have come out in support of the organizing workers including Carl Heastie, NY state assembly speaker; Corey Johnson, NY city council speaker; Tish James, NY city public advocate; Joseph Crowley, a Democratic U.S. representative from Queens and Dan Donovan, a Republican U.S. representative from Staten Island.
“I don’t think this type of support has ever happened in a union representation election before,” Samuelsen told Forbes. “It’s a foreshadowing of the post-victory contract bargaining. JetBlue is New York based, and the political power the TWU will bear down on this negotiation will be absolutely intense.”
Voting will conclude on April 17th.