FTI denies claims it advised Delta on anti-union campaign

24 May 2019 Consulting.us 3 min. read
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Advisory firm FTI Consulting has denied claims from the Huffington Post that the firm was responsible for an anti-unionization communications effort at Delta Airlines. The comms campaign, which includes posters and a website urging Delta employees to shun unionization, has drawn ire on social media and from prominent Democrats.

“Union dues cost around $700 a year,” a poster displayed in a Delta break room proclaims. “A new video game system with the latest hits sounds like fun. Put your money towards that instead of paying dues to the union.”

The poster provides the website address DontRiskItDontSignIt.com, which directs to a site expounding on the dangers of union membership. The website warns of rising union dues and the “dangers of the IAM” (the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers, which is pushing for unionization of Delta flight attendants and baggage handlers).

The communications campaign has drawn swift backlash from Democrats. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) tweeted “Shame on Delta for this condescending bullshit.” Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) tweeted, “I say to Delta: Stop trying to undercut workers’ right to form a union and negotiate for better wages.” Fellow presidential hopeful Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) accused Delta of “corporate greed.”FTI denies claims that it advised Delta on anti-union campaignThere is, of course, nothing illegal about a company putting up posters and a website in an effort to dissuade unionization. The IAM, however, has filed a complaint with the National Mediation Board (which referees workplace disputes in the airline industry) alleging that Delta has fired union activists and coerced employees to vote against the unionization process – which requires the signatures of over 50% of ramp and cargo workers to trigger a vote on unionization. Such actions, if proven true, constitute violations of labor law.

Unionization generally pushes up wages, so companies will often hire consulting and PR firms to craft strategic communications campaigns which dissuade workers from the endeavor. Though a more civil avenue than calling in the Pinkertons to bust up a union, such efforts nonetheless provoke the ire of a public which may not necessarily view unions as an instrument of evil.

According to a Pew Research survey from 2018, 55% of Americans have a favorable impression of unions. In 2017, only 10.7% of wage and salaried workers in the US were union members, down from 20.1% in 1983, and 34% in 1954. Fifty-one percent of Americans said the decline of union representation has been mostly bad for working people in the US, while 35% said it’s been mostly good, according to the survey.

Not all press is good press

The Huffington Post article which broke the Delta story fingered FTI Consulting as the firm responsible for the “anti-union propaganda” campaign. A reverse IP address search revealed that the internet server hosting the Delta anti-union site also hosts FTI’s company sites.

The consulting firm denies that it created the Delta campaign. "Our firm did not create the content referenced in that article, nor are we managing the campaign it appears to be associated with," FTI corporate communications director Matthew Bashalany told Agence France-Presse.

FTI has an extensive communications segment which builds comms strategies for clients managing financial, regulatory, and reputational challenges. The segment boasts approximately 650 strategic communications specialists across the globe.

FTI’s other consulting segments include restructuring, investigations, and litigation and disputes.

The company has worked with many of the world’s largest firms, including Exxon Mobil, Halliburton, Amazon, Facebook, and Google.