WASHINGTON, DC— Today, Senators Edward Kennedy, Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Jay Rockefeller, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security, and Patty Murray, Chairwoman of the Employment and Workplace Safety Subcommittee, sent the following letter to the CEOs of Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines, calling for the airlines to respect and include the workers and their unions in the Delta-Northwest merger talks.
The letter, signed by 26 members, also urges the companies to recognize and bargain with a majority of the workers who designate a union representative, and to remain neutral during the union representation election for Delta’s flight attendants beginning later this week.
Senator Kennedy said, “Delta and Northwest Airlines should honor the loyalty and hard work of their employees by immediately offering them a seat at the table in the merger talks. No employees should have to fear that they will lose their jobs, their benefits, and even their union representation without even being given a voice in these negotiations.”
“Both Delta and Northwest’s employees have made substantial sacrifices to help their employers emerge from bankruptcy, and no doubt last week’s merger announcement came with mixed emotions,” Rockefeller said. “I strongly believe that theirs is an important voice that shouldn’t be missing from merger discussions moving forward. Congress will be watching closely to make sure that the concerns of the employees are heard.”
“Any potential benefits from this merger can’t come at the expense of the thousands of employees who make these airlines run,” said Senator Murray. “It is critical that pilots, ground crews, flight attendants, and their union representatives be given a voice in this process.”
The text of the letter follows:
April 21, 2008
Mr. Richard Anderson
Chief Executive Officer
Delta Air Lines, Inc.
P.O. Box 20706
Atlanta, GA 30320-6001
Mr. Doug Steenland
Chief Executive Officer
2700 Lone Oak Parkway
Eagan, MN 55121
Dear Mr. Anderson and Mr. Steenland,
Last week, Delta Air Lines and Northwest Airlines announced that they plan to merge to form the nation’s largest airline.
A Delta-Northwest merger will have a major impact on millions of passengers, hundreds of communities, and our national economy. It will also affect the tens of thousands of employees whose hard work and tremendous sacrifices have greatly contributed to the vitality of both Delta and Northwest.
As we have seen in the past, support of airline employees is essential to the success of any contemplated merger. The men and women who work hard every day for Delta and Northwest deserve a seat at the table and the opportunity to establish their working conditions. They also deserve to have confidence that the merger will protect their job security, wages, and pension benefits, not undermine them.
We understand that Delta and Northwest management have not yet offered their employees a seat at the table in the merger talks, other than some discussions with the pilots’ union. We urge you to engage all of the relevant unions and employees in the ongoing merger process.
We also hope that the merger process will not be used as a way to eliminate the union representation that has existed at Northwest for decades. As hundreds of thousands of airline employees can attest, union representation substantially improves the wages, benefits, and working conditions of all employees.
We urge Delta and Northwest management to demonstrate a genuine commitment to cooperative labor relations by recognizing and bargaining with a majority of Delta or Northwest workers that identifies a union representative. We also urge Delta and Northwest to remain neutral and not engage in any untoward tactics in future union representation elections, particularly during the election for Delta’s flight attendants later this month.
Without expressing an opinion on the merger itself, we believe that both companies can certainly ensure a better future by cooperating with and respecting their workers. We share the goal of building a prosperous future for the airline industry and its employees, and look forward to working with you to make that goal a reality.
With respect and appreciation,
Edward M. Kennedy
Daniel K. Inouye
Charles E. Schumer
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Richard J. Durbin
John D. Rockefeller IV
Christopher J. Dodd
John F. Kerry
Barbara A. Mikulski
Frank R. Lautenberg
Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
Daniel K. Akaka
Robert P. Casey, Jr.