The AFL-CIO, a federation of labor unions, posted and then deleted a tweet Thursday night that featured a picture of a guillotine and a suggestive reference to Delta CEO Ed Bastian.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which is a member of the AFL-CIO, is trying to get certain Delta employees to unionize. Currently, only Delta’s pilot staff is unionized — under The Air Line Pilots Association, International.
The AFL-CIO’s tweet featured a flyer made by Delta that had circulated on Twitter earlier Thursday. That flyer showed an image of a gaming controller, and read, “Union dues cost around $700 a year. A new video game system with the latest hits sounds like fun. Put your money towards that instead of paying dues to the union.”
In its tweet, the AFL-CIO showed that flyer next to one it added. That flyer mimicked Delta’s, but featured an illustration of a guillotine, and read, “A guillotine only costs $1200 to build. Delta’s CEO made $13.2 million dollars last year. Get outside with your buddies, share some brews—sounds like fun.”
Carolyn Bobb, a spokeswoman for the AFL-CIO, said the organization did not create the image, but rather found it on the internet and tweeted it.
“We strive to keep our Twitter account actively engaging and real to advocate for working people,” she said. “We came across and shared this Internet meme. We realize it was in poor taste that doesn’t reflect the values of the AFL-CIO and it has been taken down.”
The tweet was up for a couple of hours before being deleted.
The meme has appeared in tweets disparaging Delta before.
When Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio on Thursday responded to Delta’s flyer with a tweet in which he called it “condescending bulls–t” and said a gaming system can’t provide fair wages, health care benefits, job security or retirement benefits, another user replied with the guillotine image.
In a statement, Delta (DAL) said that its relationship with its employees is “at the very core of our strong culture and it has enabled continuous investments in Delta (DAL) people.”
“Our employees have the best total compensation in the industry, including the most lucrative profit sharing program in the world,” Delta said. “They want and deserve the facts and we respect our employees’ right to decide if a union is right for them. Delta has shared many communications, which on the whole make clear that deciding whether or not to unionize should not be taken lightly.”
The IAM represents about 600,000 members, including much of Boeing’s workforce, and last year announced a recommitment to organizing more employers to bolster its membership.
Unions are relatively strong in the aerospace industry, representing many flight attendants and pilots, but have not managed to organize as many of the ground staff.
Delta and the IAM have been engaged in a war of words for months now, with dueling web sites. The IAM first launched its organizing campaign with Delta’s ramp service workers in 2006.