Delta Air Lines has issued a cease and desist letter to the world’s largest flight attendant union for COVID-19’misinformation,’ which the airline considers “false and defamatory” to Delta.
Last Friday, Delta’s top legal officer, Peter Carter, addressed a letter to Edward Gilmartin, the Association of Flight Attendants’ (AFA-CWA) general counsel. Although the AFA does not represent Delta’s non-unionized flight attendants, it has been fighting an uphill battle to persuade enough Delta crewmembers to sign union authorization cards.
Delta’s move to push the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last December for a reduction in the recommended isolation period for people who test positive for COVID-19 has been widely criticized by the union. Because of Omicron-related staffing constraints, the airline successfully argued that the isolation period should be cut to just five days.
Although Delta first indicated that early release from isolation should only be permitted if a negative test is obtained, the airline later accepted and implemented new CDC recommendations that allows asymptomatic or fever-free COVID-19 infected employees to be released after only five days.
Sara Nelson, AFA’s president and called “America’s most influential flight attendant,” stated in a tweet last week that she was receiving reports that Delta employees were being told to return to work after five days of isolation, even if they were still positive for COVID-19.
Carter called this assertion “false and defamatory information,” and claimed AFA had failed to contact Delta to verify the facts.
“Not only is this information false, but it is actionable because it places Delta in a highly negative light by suggesting Delta was asking employees to work while they were ill,” Carter’s letter, published by David Shepardson of Reuters, argued.
“Even more troubling. the AFA’s conduct appears to have been made with the intent to create fear and confusion among Delta employees about their own health (which is candidly reprehensible”.
“Such irresponsible conduct is inappropriate, defamatory and must cease immediately,” the letter continued.
Carter demanded that the posts be taken down right away, but the tweets in question remained up as of Tuesday.
Nelson retaliated, telling Delta CEO Ed Bastian that she feels her and AFA’s claims on Delta’s pandemic disease protocols are “truthful and factual.”
“But we will, of course, correct the record if you can point out to us any specific instance where our statements were false when we made them,” Nelson tells Bastian. The union believes Delta has updated its sickness policy in the last few days and that AFA’s claims were accurate when published.
“We’re glad that AFA’s calling attention to the issues appears to have led Delta to update its policy several times and communicate this to workers,” Nelson writes
Delta boasted that it was working to promptly follow the new regulations after the CDC changed its isolation recommendations. The airline emphasized how the shorter isolation period would help the company be more resilient by allowing it to book crews and staff more easily.
“This is a safe, science-based and more practical approach based on what we now know about the omicron variant,” commented Delta’s chief health officer Dr. Henry Ting at the time.
“We’re learning that while omicron is highly contagious, it also involves a shorter duration of illness and a shorter contagious period compared to previous strains,” Dr. Ting continued.