MIAMI — Virgin America flight attendants have voted in favor of unionization, according to a Transport Workers Union (TWU) release distributed on Wednesday. Virgin was the last major airline whose staff was not represented.
Of the 828 eligible employees, 430 voted voted to join the TWU during an election held between July 16 and August 13. A total of 307 were against joining. It will be the first and so far only, union to represent Virgin staff.
It was the second time a vote to join the TWU was undertaken, the last being in 2011. That campaign, as you could’ve guessed, didn’t work out, with flight crew voting it down.
The move for a third of its workforce into the arms of the unions will almost certainly have a negative impact on the carrier’s nascent foray into profitability. After years of struggling the carrier recorded its first full-year profit in 2013, and after a disappointing first quarter in 2014, it went on to post a modest second quarter profit. With its seventh birthday now in the books, the airline has already been struggling with a maturing workforce and associated rising costs. Indeed wages, salaries, and benefits rose to $59.3 million in the second quarter, a 21.2% increase year-over-year, though the figure could also be attributed to a growing workforce. We’re likely to know more about long-term impacts in the fall, when contract negotiations are set to begin.
Virgin is the latest airline to welcome, if that’s the right word, unions into its midst. JetBlue Airways pilots voted to join the Air Line Pilots Association back in April, while its flight attendants are working to set up a TWU election. All other large carriers have counted at least one, usually several, unions among its ranks.