Most workers rightfully expect to be paid from the minute their shift starts until they clock out. But for flight attendants across the United States, it’s apparently long been customary for them to arrive at the airport, help passengers board, and only start getting paid once the cabin doors are locked and takeoff is imminent. This is wage theft, and an insult to injury for flight attendants who have faced increasing levels of aggression and violence from passengers who don’t like being told to put on their seat belt or pull their mask over their nose.
Yesterday, the Delta flight attendants’ union campaign announced that Delta Airlines would now pay them during the boarding process. According to CNBC, Delta now becomes the first major U.S. airline to offer boarding pay, which, again, is just compensating people for the entire length of their shift. It must be a total coincidence that Delta is the only major airline without a flight attendants’ union and that the workers will soon file for a union vote—definitely completely unrelated!
As the flight attendants behind the union drive noted on their website, it appears the company is getting nervous. “This new policy is the direct result of our organizing,” they wrote, adding, “But this also shows that Delta could have been paying Flight Attendants for boarding all along.” They also noted that the company could change this policy at any time unless its codified in a future union contract. “Keep going! Every improvement they add now will get locked in when we vote for our union because they can’t retaliate and take it away,” the union said.
CNBC notes that Delta’s new “boarding pay” will only be half of flight attendants’ hourly rates and starts on June 2, not immediately. Delta has more than 20,000 flight attendants nationwide—the largest non-union crew of any U.S. airline—and, in 2019, those workers began organizing with the Association of Flight Attendants. If their union vote is successful, maybe they can address the wage theft in their contract by getting retroactive boarding pay. Just a suggestion!