More than 1,200 Delta pilots and staff took part in seven airport-wide protests on Thursday calling for higher wages, among other things, as flight cancellations continue in the United States at the end of the day. eve of the holiday weekend.
Demonstrations at major airports in New York, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Los Angeles featured Delta employees holding signs with messages such as: “Industry-Leading Contract NOW.”
The last time a contract was negotiated between Delta and its pilots was in 2016, said Reed Donoghue, a Delta pilot who has worked for the company for six years.
“Our message today was for Delta management that it was time to come to the table for an industry-leading contract,” Donoghue told NPR by phone. “And you know, [for] passengers flying this weekend, be aware that there is a good chance that at least one crew member on their flight, whether a flight attendant or a pilot, will likely be working overtime during their day off to help with the operation.”
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Along with higher pay, Delta pilots seek better work-life balance, health insurance, retirement and job security, Donoghue said. So far in 2022, Delta pilots are on pace by the end of the summer to log more overtime than in 2018 and 2019 combined, he added.
Delta told NPR that Thursday’s protests by its staff “would not disrupt our operations for our customers.”
“Earlier this year, Delta, ALPA and a representative from the National Mediation Council restarted our mediated contract negotiations that had been halted for nearly two years due to the pandemic,” Delta told NPR in a statement. “Our goal remains to continue to provide Delta pilots with an industry-leading global contract with the best compensation based on salary, pension, work rules and profit sharing. We are also committed to ensuring contract language supports our ability to run a world-class operation, maintain a strong balance sheet and invest in our business for our customers and employees.”
Thursday’s protests came a day after Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said that he called on Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the U.S. Department of Transportation to take action to reduce airline cancellations and delays.
With the rise in demand for air travel, airlines are struggling to keep up, in part due to a shortage of pilots. Faced with problems such as bad weather, many airlines have been forced to cancel their flights entirely.
Lance Wilson is an activist with The Worker Agency who believes Delta employees “deserve to be properly compensated”.
“Over the past six years, inflation and the pandemic have caused the cost of basic needs to skyrocket, so Delta must stop exploiting its employees and pay them a decent wage for the valuable work they do.” , Wilson told NPR via email.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Franklin.