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JetBlue fleet service staff seek union vote

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A JetBlue passenger jet (Embraer 190) taxis at LaGuardia Airport in Recent York, Recent York.

Robert Alexander | Archive Photos | Getty Images

A serious airline union said Friday that it has enough support amongst JetBlue Airways’ roughly 3,000 fleet service staff to hunt a unionization vote, in the most recent move to prepare staff.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Employees said it would file an application for a union vote with the National Mediation Board. The work group includes baggage handlers and other ground operations employees.

A vote in favor could create the third-largest unionized work group on the Recent York-based airline. JetBlue’s pilots and flight attendants are already unionized. It could come during a wave of union votes across firms from Amazon to Starbucks.

A vote could also happen while JetBlue is within the strategy of trying to amass budget airline Spirit Airlines, where greater than 80% of employees are represented by unions, compared with JetBlue’s 46%, in accordance with annual company filings.

Ensuring more predictable schedules is considered one of the pillars of a possible labor contract for the fleet service staff, IAM’s air transport territory general vice chairman, Richard Johnsen, told CNBC.

“They really have never had that chance to have a say of their future,” he said. “Now is perhaps probably the most critical time.”

Staff schedules plunged early within the pandemic but surged together with travel demand as Covid cases waned, sparking tensions with airline unions across the U.S.

“JetBlue values its relationship with all of our crewmembers including our ground operations crewmembers who, for the last two years, helped manage the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic,” the carrier said in an announcement. “We firmly consider that the direct relationship we’ve with our ground operations crewmembers has worked, and can proceed to work, and that third-party representation and the prices to our crewmembers that include it are usually not of their best interests.”

Most major airline staff are already largely represented by unions, though less so at some carriers like JetBlue than at some competitors.

Delta Air Lines is the biggest U.S. carrier whose staff aren’t mostly unionized. Nonetheless, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, the country’s largest flight attendant union, is in the course of a union drive there, which it launched in 2019. Flight attendants had previously rejected unionization.

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