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JetBlue flight attendants picket outside Long Island City headquarters demanding job protections amid proposed Spirit acquisition

JetBlue flight attendants and union members picket outside the airline’s corporate headquarters at 27-01 Queens Plaza North calling for job protections with the possible acquisition of Spirit Airlines on the horizon. (Courtesy of TWU Local 579)

Tuesday, March 21 By Bill Parry 

New York’s hometown airline has a disgruntled faction among its hometown workforce.

Over 100 JetBlue flight attendants and members of the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 579 rallied outside the air carrier’s Long Island City corporate headquarters Monday.

During an informational picket, flight attendants called on JetBlue to provide answers as to what the carrier’s proposed $3.8 billion acquisition of Spirit Airlines will mean for their jobs and livelihoods. The picketers demanded the company promise protections for workers in the event JetBlue’s acquisition of Spirit Airlines is approved.

“As flight attendants, we are the cornerstone of JetBlue, critical to its success, yet JetBlue management continues to disregard our members,” TWU Local 579 President Tyesha Best said. “Our Union’s contract is blatantly violated and they refuse to provide written protections for Inflight Crewmembers in the case the Spirit acquisition goes through. JetBlue has shown time and time again that it neither respects nor values its flight attendants,”

TWU Local 579 represents more than 6,800 JetBlue flight attendants.

“We have a five-year contract in place for our inflight crewmembers that was voted on and ratified in December 2021 after negotiations with the Transport Workers Union (TWU),” JetBlue said in a statement. “We are a year into the TWU’s collective bargaining agreement, and we will continue to honor what has been agreed upon. We are committed to maintaining an ongoing open dialogue with all of our crewmembers to listen and address concerns, as they are core to our success.”

TWU Local 579 members won their first collective bargaining agreement with JetBlue after a years-long battle. Still, the union says JetBlue continues to ignore new scheduling rules and other critical provisions of the contract.

According to TWU Local 579, JetBlue flight attendants face higher attrition rates compared to industry standards. They also have lower pay and many have been unable to seek higher leadership opportunities.

(Courtesy of TWU Local 579)

JetBlue’s failure to resolve these issues has created concern among workers that an acquisition would only magnify mismanagement within the airline.

“We’re picketing today to ensure JetBlue hears us loud and clear,” Best said. “It would be extremely difficult to support this acquisition considering JetBlue hasn’t provided legally binding protections for us and continues to dismiss our requests to be treated fairly.”

Monday’s picket comes two weeks after a lawsuit was filed by the U.S. Justice Department seeking to prevent JetBlue from acquiring Spirit Airlines. Antitrust regulators argue that the deal would reduce competition in the airline industry, creating higher fairs and reduced options for customers.

On Tuesday, a U.S. District Judge in Boston set a non-jury trial date for Oct. 16. JetBlue concluded its statement by accentuating the positive:

“Our merger with Spirit will bring more opportunities and job growth that will benefit our current crewmembers and Spirit’s team members, and at the same time will allow JetBlue inflight crewmembers to participate in negotiations for a new contract, accelerating the current timeline by a number of years.”

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