New rules more favorable to unions were not enough to enable the Transport Workers Union (TWU) to succeed in unionizing the flight attendants at Virgin America Airlines, who rejected the union by a 59% to 41% margin. Terry Maxon of Dallasnews.com reports:
Flight attendants at Virgin America have voted against being represented by the Transport Workers Union , the National Mediation Board said Tuesday.
The NMB said 223 employees voted in favor of TWU representation, while 324 voted for no representation.
We take note that the election results were the same under the new NMB rules for union representation votes as they would have been under the old NMB rules.
Prior to mid-2010, a union needed a majority of the employees eligible to vote. A non-vote was counted as a no vote. The rule change, upheld last week by a federal appeals court, now requires that unions get aye votes only from the people who vote. Employees who opt not to vote aren't counted.
Perhaps the flight attendants noticed that Ft. Worth-based American Airlines recently declared bankruptcy, making the defined benefit retirement plans employees enjoyed there a moot point. Handing over 2% of their pay to the union bosses didn't work out so well. To be sure, unions at AMR, the corporate parent of American Airlines, agreed to give-backs on wages, but retirement expenses remained an unsustainable burden (see this report by respected aviation consultants The Boyd Group for more details). It is also worth noting that Virgin America recently entered the Dallas-Ft. Worth market, competing directly against American on major trunk routes out of DFW Airport.
Virgin America offers a superior in-flight product in coach, with more comfortable than normal seats, brand new airplanes (A320 twinjets), and more extensive entertainment options on a touch screen video monitor on the back of every seat. Virgin America cultivates a young, hip, and progressive image, consistent with its chosen headquarters airport of San Francisco. I was shocked to find on a recent flight that the TV options include MSNBC and even Al Gore's left wing Current TV (that nobody watches on cable, except maybe Keith Olbermann's mother, in order to see her son), but not Fox News, by far the most popular cable news operation.
Obviously, when it comes to unions, Virgin America Airlines is more conservative than when it comes to inflight entertainment.