How One Anti-Union Flight Attendant Became the Union’s Most Passionate Organizer
Delta flight attendant Becky Ley used to be against the union. This is why she flipped sides.
Produced and edited by Paula Pecorella and Nes Sanchez
Becky Ley has been a flight attendant at Delta for 34 years. She used to be against the union drive. Now she’s one of the top organizers. This is her story. Below is a full transcript of the video.
Becky Ley: I love Delta. I mean, I absolutely love Delta. I eat and breathe Delta.
I love wearing my uniform. I love telling people I work for Delta. I was completely on the anti-union side. I could not see how anything that the union could provide would be better than what we had. I could see maybe some things that I thought weren’t right, but I was willing to overlook them because I thought things were so good. And those are things that I’m not willing to overlook anymore.
My name is Becky Ley. I’ve been at Delta for 34 years. I became a flight attendant because when I was seven years old my parents took me on a 747 on Pan American Airlines. I remember clearly watching this huge, beautiful crew of Pan Am flight attendants and pilots walking by me.
And that day I was like, “I’m going to be a flight attendant,” and here I am. A lot of people say, “Well, if you want a union, then you don’t love Delta.” I love Delta Air Lines. Okay. How could I possibly not love my company? It’s who I am. I don’t think that having a union could possibly change that.
I love working at Delta Air Lines, but there is things that need to change. I’ve lost a lot of trust, and that’s a major component for me. A lot of people say that the reason you flip is because something has happened to you. Nothing. Nothing has happened to me. They have been good to me.
But I’ve seen some people that haven’t been treated with the exact same outcomes. And I believe in complete fairness. There is an instance where someone that I am extremely close to something that happened to them, and I think the outcome was extremely unfair and harsh.
I can’t defend that because I do know the specific circumstances of that situation and I am appalled that that could happen. There’s no recourse. She’s used up everything she could possibly use, and now she’s stuck with that punishment for the rest of her career. How many times does that happen?
Someone gets in trouble. They call them into the office, and they’re required to write a statement right here, right now, this minute. And you’re there by yourself. No backup. You can’t record. It’s completely against the rules. There’s nothing. There’s nothing to define what happened in that room. These are unfair practices. And with the union, that would change immediately.
Everybody says, “Oh, Delta is a business. The union is a business.” They are. But Delta’s business is to fly people from point A to point B. What’s the union’s job? The union’s job is to protect me. So if we want to talk about what the business does, whose business do I want to be with? The one that flies airplanes that is going to do everything to do that in a cost-effective manner?
And they should. It’s my company. I want them to do well, but I still need someone to negotiate what I need, what we need, and whether it costs me whatever it costs in union dues I’m paying for a service, and that service is to protect me. I think most of the industry don’t understand most of our job. You know, for so long, what has been the reputation of the flight attendant? That pretty girl walking down the concourse, you know, in her cute uniform.
Our number one job up there is safety and security. You know, that’s what we are trained for. Right now through COVID, I mean, our safety is in danger all the time on board the aircraft, passengers have literally gone crazy.
[Video of a passenger attacking a flight attendant]: Hey! Hey! Don’t you dare touch a flight attendant like that.
Becky: We’re seeing a growing number of flight attendants forced to act as in-flight security guards because unruly passengers express their dismay over mask mandates. We have to figure it out on our own because we are up at 35,000 feet. I feel like if we had an organization whose job is completely dedicated to my safety, my well-being, all of me, then that’s when I could go to AFA and say, “Hey, we’ve got things that we need to do for safety.” And they do have the clout to make those connections with government officials, local police, whatever it takes.
If a flight attendant says she’s fatigued, she needs to be able to get off that airplane and it needs to be taken seriously. And that’s what AFA concentrates on. Delta concentrates on point A to point B, and those are big differences. And I think it’s worth my dues. This is nothing against Delta Air Lines.
On the contrary, I really believe in my heart 100% that having a union at Delta Air Lines will make us better, stronger. And I don’t mean the flight attendants better and stronger. I mean Delta Air Lines better and stronger. We are Delta. AFA is never going to change that.
Videography by Lev Omelchenko