JetBlue Airways flight attendants took a major step toward forming a union Wednesday, filing pro-union authorization cards with the National Mediation Board in Washington, D.C., signifying their intent to join the Transport Workers Union of America. JetBlue is one of only a handful of major airlines, including Delta Air Lines, without unionized flight attendants.
The New York-based company has approximately 4,800 flight attendants, according to TWU, with more than 1,300 based in Boston.
JetBlue is the largest carrier at Logan Airport in terms of flights and passenger numbers.
“This is the biggest and most important organizing drive in the airline industry in decades,” TWU president John Samuelsen said in a statement. “Increasing numbers of workers are realizing that they have to unite against the right-wing politicians and the greedy multi-billion-dollar corporations.”
The flight attendants are seeking higher wages, the ability to defend themselves against unfair punishment, and a voice at the table if JetBlue merges with another airline.
The union took out an ad in the New York Daily News Wednesday announcing the organizing campaign and denouncing JetBlue, which, the ad stated, “continues to behave like a struggling low-budget carrier, mistreating and underpaying its workers.”
JetBlue responded to the campaign with a statement: “We respect our crew members’ right to consider a third-party proposal, and look forward to a conversation about how our direct relationship allows us to be the most responsive to the needs of our crew members.”
Once the National Mediation Board approves the authorization cards, which must be signed by more than half the flight attendants, they can move ahead with an election, expected to take place in January.
But change could be a long time coming.
TWU spent six years negotiating a contract for Allegiant Air flight attendants that will raise their pay by up to 33 percent over five years and increase vacation days and compensation for delays. A vote to ratify the tentative agreement is expected by the end of the year.
Samuelson, who was sworn in as union head earlier this year, said he will not let the JetBlue campaign drag on for that long.
“We’re certainly not going to stand around and let JetBlue vacillate,” he said.Katie Johnston can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.