Steven Slater: Honorary trade unionist?

Nice news today, that Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant who walked out of his job in a way that captured the imagination of the interwebs (via a foul mouthed tannoy tirade against the treatment he’d put up with for 28 years, grabbing a beer from the trolley and deploying the emergency chute to slide out and walk away – if you spent yesterday with your computer turned off) has been offered assistance by the American union AFA.

JetBlue aren’t unionised, so Steven wasn’t a union member. But luckily it seems AFA are prepared to fight his corner, with an AFA rep telling TMZ “We want to advance the profession no matter what. Sometimes in order to do that we must help people who may not necessarily be members”. He’ll need it as he’s currently facing charges on reckless endangerment, criminal damage and criminal mischief (a charge usually reserved for Batman villains).

Good on AFA. There’s a lot of public sympathy for Slater, and helping what’s likely the highest profile case that’ll ever come up at JetBlue can only help in getting more interest there and pushing for unionisation, and conditions which hopefully won’t mean so many staff feel they have to press the nuclear button like Steven.

Anyway, the above is Jonathan Mann’s (as per usual) excellent take on the affair, and how a lack of respect for your hard work can drive you to extreme lengths.

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4 thoughts on “Steven Slater: Honorary trade unionist?

  1. We do not want or need a union at JetBlue. We have an outstanding working relationship with our management. Steven Slater selfish act endangered the lives and working environment of his co-workers. More information is being found about the circumstances of that day. It is shameful of AFA to offer representation.

  2. Heh – you mean JetBlue’s industry leading social media response and marketing program? I’m not so cynical Derek 😉

    Folk at JetBlue have some reason to be sceptical of the potential for unions – the ballot for unionisation with the International Machinists (how attendants are machinists I’m not sure…) didn’t go well, with a good but not enough 35% voting for it, and a unionisation drive for pilots failed too.

    I guess partly due to the fact the IMA had actually opposed the creation of the company, and JetBlue were able to make good use of that, and maybe partly due to the fact other staff were members of AFA. But possibly the company hiring anti-union law firm Ford and Harrison to help resist the union drives, or incidents like their alleged dismissing a union activist on tenuous grounds all helped contribute to the low result.

    True Blue’s right about the fact that all we have at the moment is around as many versions of the event as there were people on the plane. First Slater’s story, then the suggestions he was acting weird the whole flight, now suggestions the passenger who sparked this is facing a $25k fine. I don’t reckon the union would have made an offer without a bit of insider info, but probs best to wait for the hearing for those of us totally out of the loop to find out what really happened on that plane!

    Whatever the sitation though, I reckon we *all* need unions, whether we’re happy with managment or not. I’ve worked for great managers who’ve made bad decisions and were happy to be informed of it by the workforce through the union.

    When companies like JetBlue say they want a direct relationship with the workforce, and they don’t think a third party should speak for them (except perhaps Ford and Harrison), they really mean they want worker voices kept individual, as they’re easier to ignore that way. A union isn’t a third party – who do you think actually does all the work? Yup, it’s you. The ghost of Jimmy Hoffa doesn’t suddenly appear to take all the workload of networking your colleagues and feeding up their thoughts to management – it’s handled by members of that union, i.e. you if you choose to get involved, or your workmates if you don’t get involved.

    I’ve never flown JetBlue, but they sound in some ways like our own no-margins carrier RyanAir (though admittedly they have a far better customer services reputation – RyanAir seem to revel in a ‘we hate our customers and staff, but hey that’s why we’re cheap’ image). I think they’re the UK’s only non-union carrier, and judging by what I’ve heard of them behing the scenes, it’s not a company I’d want to either fly (after the first trip I took with them) or work.

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