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PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Union Employees Fighting Back

Not Just in the Airline Industry! 

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Leslie Smith

Leslie Smith is a professional mixed martial artist (MMA) fighter. She formerly fought in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), which is the largest MMA promotion in the world. Leslie now fights for Bellator, which is the second largest MMA promotion, and she is ranked as the 11th best featherweight female fighter in the World. Not only in Leslie a fighter in the ring, but she is a fighter for all employees. Leslie is standing up for whats right, despite the challenges. Her statement, "Sometimes I feel I'm a little bit alone in this," resonated with me. But this feeling did not stop her.

Leslie took it upon herself to improve the working lives of her fellow fighters. She was involved in multiple efforts, including those to unionize her colleagues. Most notably, Leslie created her own organizing drive in the UFC in 2018, which was called Project Spearhead.

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This movement was picking up steam and Leslie had collected numerous authorization cards. The UFC got nervous in April 2018 and it fired her, despite the fact she was on a three fight win streak and ranked 9th in the world. There was no just cause, simply an organization keeping out the unions. They fired an employee who was trying to get medical benefits for fellow employees. She also wanted employees to have a share of the profits. The fighters risk their lives, have no medical benefits, and only make $12,000 a fight, and that's before the cost of getting there, when the UFC is making billions!

How could termination for attempting to unionize  happen in today's world? Unfortunately we live in a world of power, greed and corruption. The aviation industry is no different in terminating or retaliating against employees who bring safety concerns, or gender rights forward. Sadly, flight attendants or mechanics who fight to unionize face similar fears of what happened to Leslie. It will take those who are not afraid to speak out and willing to stand their ground to make change. She is now in a fight of another kind.

Leslie filed charges against the UFC with the NLRB and initially prevailed when Region 4 of the NLRB found merit in her charge that she was retaliated against, but most notably that UFC fighters were employees as opposed to independent contractors. Her mental acuity and inner strength, mirror her physical strength and Leslie was making a difference and on the path to success.

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Unfortunately, less than 24 hours after that finding, the NLRB Division of "Advice in DC" took the case from Region 4 and proceeded to dismiss her complaint. The President of the UFC, Dana White, is very close friends with President Trump, and there can be no question that political strings were pulled when the UFC realized Leslie was winning her case. In the airline industry, we saw the pulling of similar political strings with the current FAA Administrator.

Since then, Full Frontal with Samatha Bee has done a piece on Leslie’s fight to unionize the sport, and Leslie has delivered speeches at the Economic Policy Institute in DC. In addition, she was active in former presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s campaign, introducing him at multiple rallies.

Leslie Smith is a truly righteous and strong person, both inside and out. She had great integrity and  cares for her fellow employees, and I am proud to know her. Strong women everywhere. She also has a great sense of humor. The Full Frontal with Samantha Bee was funny. Reminding me everyday, that you can never forget to laugh at the situations of life. That too, will keep you strong.

Follow Leslie on Twitter 

Full Frontal with Samatha Bee:

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

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