JetBlue Ground Operations Seek Union Representation

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A JetBlue passenger jet (Embraer 190) taxis at LaGuardia Airport in New York, New York.

Robert Alexander | Archive Photos | Getty Images

A major airline union said Friday it has enough support among JetBlue Airways’ roughly 3,000 employees to seek a union vote, in the final step to organize workers.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers said it will file a union vote request with the National Mediation Board. The working group consists of baggage handlers and other ground operations staff.

A vote in favour could form the New York-based airline’s third-largest union working group. JetBlue’s pilots and flight attendants are already union members. It would come amid a wave of union votes at companies from Amazon to Starbucks.

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A vote could also take place while JetBlue is in the process of acquiring budget airline Spirit Airlines, where more than 80% of workers are represented by unions, compared to JetBlue’s 46%, according to annual company records.

Ensuring more predictable schedules is one of the pillars of a potential employment contract for the fleet service employees, Richard Johnsen, IAM’s general vice president of air transportation, told TUSEN.

“They’ve really never had a chance to have a say in their future,” he said. “This is perhaps the most critical moment.”

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Workforce scheduling collapsed early in the pandemic but rose along with travel demand as Covid cases declined, leading to tensions with airline unions in the US

“JetBlue appreciates its relationship with all of our crew members, including those from our ground operations who have helped over the past two years meet the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic,” the carrier said in a statement. “We firmly believe that the direct relationship we have with the crew members of our ground operations has worked and will continue to work, and that third party representation and the associated costs to our crew members are not in their best interest.”

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Most of the employees of the major airlines are already largely represented by unions, although less with some airlines like JetBlue than with some competitors.

Delta Air Lines is the largest U.S. airline whose employees are largely ununified. However, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the country’s largest flight attendant union, is in the midst of a union action there, which it launched in 2019. Flight attendants had previously rejected the unionization.

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