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Virgin America Flight Attendants Vote To Join Union

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WASHINGTON -- Three years after a failed bid to unionize, flight attendants at Virgin America airlines on Wednesday voted decisively to join the Transport Workers Union.

According to TWU, the vote was 430 to 307, with 58 percent voting in favor. The attendants would be the first Virgin America employees to be represented by a labor union.

"I am beyond ecstatic," said Jeremy Schoggins, 30, a San Francisco-based attendant who supported the union campaign. "They [the company] have resisted it and I know they're disappointed, but this is for our future. This is for us to have a voice, so we can be the best airline in the world."

Jennifer Thomas, a Virgin America spokeswoman, said in an email that the airline respects the vote and is ready to move forward.

"We’ve always been committed to reinventing flying for our guests, focusing on our teammates, and charting our own path -- and that is just as true today as it was the day we started flying," Thomas said.

The National Mediation Board, the federal agency that oversaw the election, did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the results.

TWU already represents 200,000 workers in the airline and transportation industries, including 11,000 flight attendants at Southwest and 500 at Allegiant Air.

"Virgin America bills itself as an ‘upscale’ airline and prides itself on that service that ‘team members’ offer,” John Samuelsen, TWU's vice president, said in a statement on the vote. "This is a chance to make the airline better for both customers and workers."

Six flight attendants had come to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday for the official tally of ballots, which had been cast electronically over the past month. Of those half-dozen pro-union attendants, four had voted against TWU in an election in 2011, including Schoggins.

Asked why he changed his vote this time, Schoggins said that his grievances from years earlier had gone unaddressed by management. In particular, Schoggins said, he wants to see firm company guidelines on "duty time," which lays out how much a flight attendant will work before being guaranteed a break.

"We've never been given a clear picture," Schoggins said. "What we were fighting for was to get consistency nailed down and clear lines on how long we're at work before we can get rest."

Schoggins stressed that he loves the company and wants to see it succeed.

"This isn't us versus them," he said. "Our voting process was very friendly; we even hugged our management team. We want to build this airline with [them], and we support the Virgin America brand 100 percent."

Virgin America released its second-quarter results this week, reporting earnings of $37 million, up from $8.8 million the previous year, in part because it's been booking fuller flights. The company filed for an initial public offering just last month.