Exclusive: Virgin America flight attendants to hold union vote

SEATTLE Wed Jun 25, 2014 4:36pm EDT

A Virgin America jet takes off past other aircraft parked at Terminal 3 as the terminal begins to reopen the day after a shooting incident occurred at Los Angeles airport (LAX), California November 2, 2013.  REUTERS/David McNew

A Virgin America jet takes off past other aircraft parked at Terminal 3 as the terminal begins to reopen the day after a shooting incident occurred at Los Angeles airport (LAX), California November 2, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/David McNew

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Flight attendants at Virgin America are due to begin voting next month on whether to join a union, which would be the first at the California-based airline.

The balloting by about 850 eligible flight attendants on whether to be represented by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) is due to begin July 16 and run through Aug. 16, the union and the National Mediation Board said on Wednesday.

Virgin America remains the last non-union airline among U.S. carriers after JetBlue pilots voted in April to organize.

Virgin America said it respected the flight attendants' rights and union election process. But it said the airline's success was largely due to employees working together to "make flying good again" and "a third-party, like the TWU, would only detract from that."

It noted that the flight attendants previously rejected TWU representation. "We're confident we'll see a similar result this time," spokeswoman Jennifer Thomas said in an email.

The prior attempt at organizing flight attendants at the Burlingame, California-based airline failed in December 2011. The TWU said the flight attendants are concerned about pay rates, work rules that don't provide pay for extended flight delays and disciplinary procedures.

"They have no recourse in disciplinary matters and that can cause them to be terminated for little or no reason," said Thom McDaniel, a TWU international vice president.

Virgin America uses San Francisco as its hub and has won numerous awards for service and amenities.

For the last two years it has ranked first among U.S. airlines in the annual national Airline Quality Rating performance study published by researchers at Wichita State University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. JetBlue Airways Corp (JBLU.O) has ranked second the past two years.

Virgin America is majority owned by VAIPartners LLC, Delaware-based company, with a minority stake held by Virgin Group, the privately held conglomerate founded by entrepreneur Richard Branson.

Branson started the airline in 2004, and it began flying in 2007.

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Comments (3)
SEAflier wrote:
Interesting that Mr McDaniel’s statement has no balance in this article. Let me provide some corrections:
He states, “They have no recourse in disciplinary matters and that can cause them to be terminated for little or no reason.” The FACT is that there IS a process in place, which TWU has been busy downplaying and discounting. It’s the same as a grievance at a union, with fellow flight attendants reviewing the details as shared by the flight attendant concerned, and a decision is reached which can correct smaller problems, misunderstandings, or disciplinary actions. Similarly, there is a peer review group which hears cases in which a flight attendant has been terminated – again, with other flight attendants being able to hear all of the details and decide whether to change any decision with regard to the flight attendant’s employment.
To state otherwise is simply a lie. It’s disappointing to see this article share such a quote without bothering to ask anyone from the work group, or from management at the airline whether it’s even true.
TWU has been very busy spending Southwest flight attendants’ money to peddle these kinds of ideas at Virgin America. It failed in 2011. It will fail again in August.

Jun 27, 2014 3:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dallasstew wrote:
Really hope the Virgin America Flight Attendants educate themselves. A lot of the Flight Attendants at Southwest are very unhappy with 556 and have chosen to opt out of their Union. They are wanting to start their own Union.

Jun 27, 2014 11:35pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
dallasstew wrote:
Do hope the Flight Attendants at Virgin America do their homework in researching 556. They mostly care about the money in their wallets, not the best interest of the Flight Attendants. A lot of the Flight Attendants at Southwest have opted-out which means they want to start their own Union. The un-elected officials at 556 are also in the back pocket with upper management at Southwest.

Jun 27, 2014 12:33am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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