Flight attendants at this Utah airline just voted ‘overwhelmingly’ to unionize

It was one of the fastest organizing campaigns the union had ever seen, one union rep said.

(Adam Macchia | The New York Times) A Breeze Airways commercial airliner at an airport on New York’s Long Island, March 2, 2021. Flight attendants for the Utah-based airline have voted to unionize, the National Mediation Board certified on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

Flight attendants at Utah-based Breeze Airways have voted “overwhelmingly” to join the Association of Flight Attendants — after one of the fastest campaigns to file for a union election AFA officials said they have ever seen.

A union spokesperson said Tuesday that 76.3% of Breeze flight attendants voted in favor of joining the AFA, which now represents the airline’s roughly 600 flight attendants. The National Mediation Board, a federal agency that oversees labor relations in the railroad and airline industries, certified the election Tuesday, four months after the campaign launched.

“Today [Breeze flight attendants] gain the legal right to bargain and have a voice in their future at Breeze,” Sara Nelson, AFA international president, said in a news release Tuesday. “We are inspired by their solidarity and thrilled to welcome them to our AFA family. Our labor movement is growing. Everywhere.”

The flight attendants organizing for representation filed for a union election just two weeks after announcing their campaign — which Nelson said at the time was one of the fastest campaigns AFA had ever seen.

Flight attendants and union representatives said the vote was prompted by such issues as low pay, inconsistent policies and insufficient travel accommodations. They had also raised concerns about erratic scheduling and poor communication.

“Management broke out all the tired old union busting, but together we weren’t intimidated or fooled,” Breeze union organizer and flight attendant Robynne Martino said in a news release. “Our work group spoke clearly. It’s time for Breeze to treat us with the dignity we earn every day on the line. We call on management to come to the table and negotiate a fair contract without delay.”

A spokesperson for Breeze Airways said Tuesday’s election results were “not the outcome” the airline hoped for, but it will “work alongside the AFA and our flight attendants to build on the already tremendous success of our young airline.”

“Breeze is entering its fourth year of service, and we are extremely proud of the progress we have made and the many milestones we have achieved,” the airline said in a statement. It celebrated its first full month of profitability in March, according to the statement, and has flown 5 million customers since its first flight.

Tuesday’s election is part of a “wave” of flight attendant union campaigns in states with notably low union participation, according to AFA. Utah has one of the lowest union participation rates in the country at roughly 4%, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s less than half of the national rate of 10.1% and lower than all but three states — South Dakota, North Carolina and South Carolina. And it is especially low among private-sector workers, according to BLS data.

Breeze Airways employees live and work at bases across the country, but the company’s headquarters is in Cottonwood Heights. The airline, known for its low-cost flights to smaller regional airports including Provo and Ogden, is the fifth founded by Utah native David Neeleman.

Shannon Sollitt is a Report for America corps member covering business accountability and sustainability for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.