The value and power of an IAM contract was on prominent display in a recent ruling from the New York State Department of Labor (DOL), settling a dispute over how often IAM members at Northwest Airlines in New York would be paid.
The dispute began when Delta management notified IAM members at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports that starting January 1, 2010, all Northwest employees would be paid every two weeks, to bring them in line with Delta employees. For years, Northwest’s IAM members in New York State have been paid weekly, in accordance with their contract and New York State law.
Delta requested a waiver from the New York State DOL to pay Northwest employees less frequently, a move that would allow Delta to pocket all the accumulated interest in the workers’ wages. The airline has such a waiver for pre-merger Delta employees.
Under New York state law, if the affected employees are represented by a union, a waiver cannot be granted unless their union agrees. Accordingly, the IAM Legal Department notified the New York State Department of Labor that the Machinists union would not agree to any waiver. In late December, the New York State DOL ordered Delta to continue paying Northwest IAM members as they have always been paid, on a weekly basis.
In the absence of a legally binding contract, Delta would be free to set wages, benefits and working conditions as they see fit, without any input from employees. In this case, the only difference between money in Delta’s pocket or money in the workers’ pockets, was their union contract. Case closed.