open letter

Dear Gamers of Delta Air Lines, You Have Nothing to Lose But Your Chains

Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Open Letter is an occasional series dedicated to offering unvarnished and unsolicited advice to public figures.

Dear Gamers of Delta Air Lines,

I hear that Delta Air Lines wants to help you buy a fancy new console. All you have to do is say no to the dastardly International Association of Machinists, which wants to organize the company’s ramp and cargo workers.

The flyer might be new, but if you’ve been at Delta long enough, you’ve probably heard similar rhetoric before Thursday. In fact, this is not the first time Delta has tried to dissuade you from unionizing, as Fast Company reported on Thursday; the airline has in fact been trying to prevent IAM from organizing workers for years. In 2018, Hamilton Nolan reported for Splinter that Delta had created a website,, to convince workers to avoid IAM’s Delta Workers Unite campaign.That website is still live, and on it, Delta tells you that you’ll have to pay around $700 annually to the union.

Delta did not invent the claim that workers will save money by refusing to join a union. Right-to-work groups, which advocate both for legal reforms that make it easier for workers to leave their unions and for restrictions on a union’s ability to collect fees from everyone covered by its contracts, also surface the same, hypothesized financial incentive. Unions dues are expensive, and they subsidize liberal political activities that workers might not like — or so the argument goes. That can be a persuasive line of reasoning. Seven-hundred dollars might not be a lot of money to Delta CEO Ed Bastian, who reportedly took home $13.2 million in 2017, but to the average airline worker like yourself, it’s a decent amount of change.

But the financial risks of joining a union are not quite what Delta’s made them out to be. I don’t know very much about video games. My gaming interests are limited to the Sims, Civilization, and the same city-builders I played almost 20 years ago. Controllers distress and confuse me, so until Nintendo comes out with a Jitterbug version of the Switch, I will abstain from further engagement with America’s favorite pastime. I do, however, know a bit about unions, so I have a warning: Gamers of Delta, your employer is lying to you. If you want to buy a fancy console, you should join a union. Yes, you’ll have to pay union dues, and it may look as though you’ll save money by opting out. You won’t, though, not in the long term. Unions bargain raises for their workers, and while corporations like Delta may want to dismiss that claim as so much union propaganda, a body of research has indeed established causal links between union membership and higher salaries. One 2016 study also found that the higher an industry’s union density, the higher its wages tend to be overall, even for non-union members.

Delta, in other words, is not going to get you that console. A union, though, could get you the raise you need to buy whatever gaming equipment your heart desires. Or buy tickets to a football game:

Or help you pay your medical bills.

Whatever you need.

Yours in Struggle,
Sarah Jones

An Open Letter to the Gamers Of Delta Air Lines