Delta urges workers to pay for video games, not union dues

"A new video game system with the latest hits sounds like fun. Put your money towards that instead of paying dues to the union," the airline says.
The Delta logo is seen at Kennedy Airport in the Queens borough of New York City.
The Delta logo is seen at Kennedy Airport in the Queens borough of New York City. Andrew Burton / Getty Images file

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By Alex Johnson

Delta Air Lines Inc. confirmed Thursday that it's behind a widely criticized poster suggesting that nonunion employees buy video games rather than spend their money on union dues.

The poster, which was tweeted earlier Thursday by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, or IAM, is part of Delta's "Don't Risk It, Don't Sign It" campaign to persuade thousands of flight attendants and ramp and cargo agents not to sign a card authorizing an election to join the IAM.

Pilots are the only large classification of Delta employees who are unionized.

A spokeswoman for Delta confirmed that the poster — which includes a generic depiction of a video game controller and suggests that employees "put your money towards that instead of paying dues to the union" — is real.

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In a statement, Delta said it was seeking to preserve "the direct relationship we have with our employees" and asserting that Delta's employees "have the best total compensation in the industry, including the most lucrative profit sharing program in the world."

The union said in a statement Thursday that Delta had "resorted to defaming and spewing lies and misrepresentations about the IAM."

Several members of Congress joined thousands of other people on social media in denouncing the poster.

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a Democratic presidential candidate, called the poster "a disgrace," alleging on Twitter that "Delta's CEO made nearly $22 million in 2017 while paying ramp agents as little as $9/hour."

Records filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission report that Chief Executive Ed Bastian received a little more than $13.2 million in total compensation in 2017, including stock and incentives.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, called the poster "condescending b-------."

"A gaming system can't give you: fair wages, health care benefits, job security, retirement benefits," he said on Twitter.

The poster doesn't appear to have been intended for the public — it's not included among eight pages of "printable messages" on Delta's Don't Risk It, Don't Sign It website, which domain registration records indicate was created in February 2018. Those messages, while being equally as aggressive as the video game poster, more directly address specifics of Delta's opposition to union representation.

Among the allegations in those messages is that the IAM makes unannounced visits to workers' homes, opposes profit sharing and disregards workers' privacy.

Georgia is a so-called right-to-work state, where it's illegal to require workers to become union members as a condition of employment. Delta, which is based in Atlanta, said in its statement Thursday that it supported "our employees' right to decide if a union is right for them."