Austin's story - "Like many other Flight Attendants, I experienced toxic shock when the uniform was introduced in 2018"
Next month, I will celebrate my eighth anniversary with Delta.
At least, I was supposed to. Now I don’t know whether I’ll be able to work safely, thanks to the purple and gray uniforms and Delta’s unclear and inconsistent policies.
Like many other Flight Attendants, I experienced toxic shock when the uniform was introduced in 2018. Under pressure from Flight Attendants who worked together to push back—and shortly after we launched our campaign with AFA—Delta management promised “a completely new uniform program for flight attendants and ACS above-wing employees…hopefully in late 2021.”
But now, management is backtracking on their promise. During the accommodations process, Delta told us a new Delta-branded alternative option was coming. Instead of a whole new uniform, they just offered options for a few pieces of the uniform, but Flight Attendants like me are still suffering adverse reactions. Sign this petition for our safety and in support staffing.
This is a choice they’re making. Delta could choose to do the right and honor their promise, but instead we’re being forced back into a uniform that's making us sick—or off the line just as we go into what’s expected to be a very busy summer and we’re already severely understaffed. I know this isn’t just about me—unless Delta changes their policy hundreds of others will be unable to fly and that will have an impact on all Flight Attendants, pilots, and our passengers.
One big reason I’ve become an AFA activist is because management can make choices that put our health and our jobs in jeopardy, and without a union contract, we don’t have a defined way to hold them accountable.
Here’s what happened to me. When I first saw the Zac Posen uniforms in 2018, I was excited. They looked good! But when we received them, I started having all kinds of problems. For months, every time I put on the uniform, I’d start wheezing and coughing. I had congestion and felt out of breath.
I didn’t put two and two together until I started hearing from others who were experiencing problems, too. When I began keeping notes of the issues, the pattern was clear. At the time, I was driving 2 hours to base. I would be fine all through my drive, but within minutes of putting on the uniform, the problems began.
I asked for an accommodation, and was told I would have to see a doctor and go through patch testing for allergies. When I was finally able to schedule the appointment with the dermatologist, Delta announced that we could switch to the Black and White since so many people were having reactions and we were starting to more officially organize with AFA.
Once I got into the alternate black and white uniform, all the issues went away. Until I received my new gray uniform.
On December 3, I departed for a 3-day trip. On the first day, I began to feel out of breath. I thought maybe I’ve just been running the whole shift, closing lots of overhead bins. When I was in my hotel and out of uniform, the problems went away. But from the time I put my uniform back on, until I got to my gate for the return leg, I could barely breathe. When I called crew assist at the urging of my flying partner, they told me to get out of the uniform as soon as possible and call EMS. By the time EMS arrived, I had some time out of the uniform and I was breathing easier. I got better.
Now, Delta is requiring that we all switch to the new uniform by May 2. The instructions are clear: if you don’t wear it, you can’t fly. Our only choices are unpaid leave or leaving Delta. I can’t imagine why they’d break their promise or choose to do this now, especially, and put the operation in jeopardy just as summer flying starts.
Delta has had more than 3 years to address this problem, but their only solution is to tell Flight Attendants we either wear a toxic uniform or we’re out of a job. That’s not how anyone should be treated, much less when they say we’re “all one family.”
I’ve followed all the guidelines. I’ve done what they asked me to do. Management went back on their promise. And now, I’m being punished because the uniform they issued is poisoning me. That’s not right.
If we had a union and a contract, we’d be able to negotiate a fair process and protections. But because Delta management holds all the cards, they can force Flight Attendants like me to choose between our jobs and our health.
It’s not right. Sign this petition for our safety and in support of staffing.I’ve been told that when you need a union it’s usually too late. I need the help of my flying partners to stop this cruel, shortsighted policy. And I hope this will help us understand why we have to get to that vote for AFA. It should never be “too late” for any of us in the Delta family.
Delta AFA SEA Flight Attendant
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The best part about this job is being together