Delta Air Lines-unions: anti-union gaffe creates a firestorm

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Delta Air Lines is arguably one of the best-run airlines in North America, regularly distinguishing itself from its peers through product innovation and consistent operational excellence.

Another distinctive feature in Delta's business that makes it unique with respect to its larger airline peers is the low level of union representation among its labour groups. Its pilots are the only unionised employee group. For years, unions have been attempting to organise Delta's other large work groups, and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) is working to represent Delta's flight attendants and ramp employees.

It is not surprising that Delta is taking action aggressively to head off the IAM's efforts to unionise those employees groups, but the airline's anti-union campaign has recently stumbled and now Delta is battling a wave of criticism on social media and drawing ire from presidential contenders.

The backlash is also a lesson in the speed with which social media can tarnish a corporate image, and now Delta is trying to make amends. But it is tough to determine what, if any, permanent damage Delta's brand could endure.

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