On the Picket Line

Delta workers rally in Minnesota to build support for a union

By Helen Meyers
April 30, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Delta Airlines ramp and cargo workers, flight attendants and supporters held a standing-room-only rally at the Labor Center here April 4 to advance their fight to organize a union. Delta workers from the Atlanta, Boston, Minneapolis, New York and Madison, Wisconsin, airports — all part of the International Association of Machinists union-organizing effort — spoke at the rally. Delta bought Northwest Airlines in 2008, where workers were members of the IAM.

After the merger, workers at the combined company voted down the union by a small majority under pressure of a concerted boss campaign. Pro-union workers are campaigning to get enough union cards signed to have a new vote.

The 35 Minneapolis ramp workers in attendance included older and newer workers. New hires on the ramp are all assigned Ready Reserve status. They get half the pay of Delta full-time employees, no benefits and are only allowed to work 1,400 hours per year. Many have been in the Ready Reserve for years.

Rob LaVigne, who was part of the last group of Ready Reserve to become full time several years ago, said he came to the rally because it’s about “getting rights back, getting what we’re worth.” LaVigne said the only way a Ready Reserve worker gets full-time work today is to agree to become a lead.

Melvin Eves, who has worked at Delta for 32 years, came to the rally with a newer ramp worker from Detroit. “We need solidarity in this fight, us older guys have to stand up for the young guys,” Eves told the Militant. “We had all these benefits and they don’t.”

Joe Evica, a Ready Reserve worker in Madison, said, “West Virginia teachers are the example we need to follow.”

“The reason workers came out is from the deteriorating conditions they face on the job,” Minneapolis ramp worker Marty Knaeble told the Militant, “combined with confidence that the organizing momentum makes success possible.”