Bernie Sanders' Delta unfair pay fight escalates following CEO response

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is not backing down after Delta Airlines hit back at his claims it was not compensating workers fairly and has a “coordinated” anti-union plan.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian attempted to clear the air regarding employee pay earlier this week, after the senator claimed some workers were earning $9 per hour. In response on Wednesday, Sanders lowered the bar with allegations that some employees were being paid as little as $8.25 per hour.

Earlier this week, Bastian wrote a letter to Sanders saying the airline is successful because of its employees, and taking care of them is his number one job.

“Total annual compensation for our people, 80,000 strong, has increased by 80 percent since 2008,” Bastian said. “I'm unaware of any company our size that can make a similar statement. We've given 10 pay increases over the past 10 years.”

Bastian went on to note that starting salaries for ramp agents are nearly $18 per hour, while after 12 years of service, flight attendants can earn $74,000 per year, and mechanics $121,000. He also pointed out that the company offers 401(k) benefits.

Earlier this month, Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who are both running for president in 2020, penned a letter to Delta CEO Ed Bastian, voicing concerns over the company’s “highly coordinated and strategic plan” to prevent workers from unionizing.

The pair of lawmakers also called out Bastian for earning $40 million over the past two years, while workers earned $9 per hour – thousands of whom are living “paycheck to paycheck.”

The pair criticized what they perceived as anti-union rhetoric at the company, and Bastian admitted that a “year-old flyer” was removed from breakrooms last week following a media report. He said the action was “not an appropriate communication to our people.”


Sanders has gone after a number of companies regarding either worker compensation, anti-union efforts, or both throughout recent months. He notably pressured e-commerce giant Amazon into raising its minimum wage to $15 per hour late last year. He has launched similar campaigns targeting Walmart and Disney.