Delta Fires 26-Year Employee For Being A Total Communist (Wanting A Minimum Wage Hike In Minnesota)
So here's a little reminder of Why Unions Matter: they give employees at least a fighting chance against bullshit like this: Kip Hedges, a baggage handler at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport who had worked for Delta Airlines for 26 years, was fired by the airline after he spoke in favor of increasing Minnesota's minimum wage to $15 an hour. Delta said that he had been canned for "disparaging" the airline.
Wow, he must have said some pretty inflammatory stuff about Delta to lose a 26-year job over it! Let's just see how badly he slurred his kind and patient employer in an October video created by Workday Minnesota and posted to Facebook by 15 Now Minnesota:
A lot of the Delta workers make under $15 an hour... As a matter of fact, I would say probably close to half make under $15 an hour. So there’s a lot of them that understand how important this is. And a lot of the better-paid workers also understand that the bottom has to be raised otherwise the top is going to fall, as well.
Uh. Maybe he snarled a lot while saying it? Here's the video, which is mostly of a 15 Now Minnesota spokeswoman talking about the effort, and then Hedges comes in at the end:
Well, he actually did say the name of the airline, so that's some heavy-duty disparagement all right. (Frankly, we were more annoyed by the lady in the first part dragging Ebola into the matter, as if baggage handlers are the Thin Blue Line against the disease.)
In a statement last week, Delta bossplained that they really had a sad about letting Hedges go, but really, he brought it on himself by Breaking The Rules:
Delta regrets any instance where a longtime employee is terminated. This includes upholding our core values of respect and honesty in any communications regarding Delta. Delta invites healthy, constructive discussion across all areas of its business.
Oh, so Hedges was either disrespectful or dishonest, then. Darn him! And remember, he wasn't even participating in an action against Delta -- he's advocating for a statewide minimum wage increase.
Star-Tribune columnist Jon Tevlin notes that, had Hedges actually been represented by a union, his remarks would have been protected by federal labor law, but he's not, so it sucks to be him:
Baggage handlers like Hedges used to be protected under the International Association of Machinists, which lost a vote to represent them by a narrow margin a few years ago. Hedges had been an officer for that union and was used to speaking freely because he had federal protection. Yet, he said he was careful in his comments last week, and said the company has not told him that his facts were incorrect.
Huh. So he wasn't lying, either? You almost get the impression that Delta is some kind of goddamned corporate bully, don't you?
Hedges is appealing his firing, but isn't especially optimistic about his chances:
“The way the Delta appeals process works, there’s not much hope of success,” said Hedges. “The people who fired me are the people who judge me.”
Tevlin notes that the National Labor Relations Act doesn't cover transportation workers (thanks, railroad barons!). John Budd, a labor relations specialist at the U of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management, explains that while Hedges may have a chance at a federal suit for wrongful termination, it's a long shot, and the odds are loaded in Delta's favor:
“Unfortunately, legal recourse is notoriously slow, and in the meantime Delta has likely succeeded in chilling speech around this important issue as others will likely be hesitant to speak out,” said Budd. “More generally, the American public frequently overestimates the protections that workers have. This case is a vivid illustration that workers lack free-speech protections. Companies have been given free-speech protections, but not their workers. This needs to change.”
Still, says Hedges, there's also the hope that a lot of pissed off airline employees -- and, dare we hope, customers? -- might make a difference:
Intimidation “is certainly what they are trying to do,” said Hedges. “The positive thing is that ramp workers all over the country are going on a union authorization card push to show Delta their tactic is backfiring. I hope Delta will look back at some point and say they wished they had not done that.”
Yr Wonkette would happily encourage you to boycott Delta if we knew of any airlines that weren't equally scummy. Come back, People's Express!
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.