Exclusive: Virgin America flight attendants seek unionization vote

Tue May 20, 2014 6:48pm EDT
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By Alwyn Scott

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Flight attendants at Virgin America airlines are seeking a vote on whether to unionize, according to an official at the Transport Workers Union (TWU), in a move that could pave the way for organized labor's latest victory in the airline industry.

If the 850 flight attendants at Virgin America vote to form a union, it would be the first at the airline and would eliminate the last non-union airline among U.S. carriers, after JetBlue pilots voted last month to organize.

The union has received signature cards from a majority of workers after a drive to organize was kicked off last July, said Thom McDaniel, a TWU international vice president. He declined to say how many.

Under labor rules, employees need to show support from 50 percent of their ranks, plus one, to file for an election.

"We have an overwhelming majority," McDaniel said. "It's not at 50 percent; it's way over that. We've got well more than we need."

The flight attendants filed on Tuesday with the National Mediation Board, which could set an election for as early as two months from now, after allowing Virgin an opportunity to protest and authenticating the cards submitted by the workers.

Virgin America, which is based in Burlingame, California, near its San Francisco hub, declined comment.

The airline was founded in 2004 by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, began flying in 2007 and is majority owned by VAI Partners, with a minority stake owned by Virgin Group.   Continued...

The first Virgin America flights land in San Francisco, California, August 8, 2007. REUTERS/John Decker Virgin America/Pool