A former Twin Cities baggage handler for Delta Air Lines has reached a settlement with the commercial carrier over his legal claims that he was fired from his job of 26 years for union organizing and making public comments about low pay for Delta's ground workers.
Christopher "Kip" Hedges said Monday that he and Delta on Aug. 13 settled the suit filed in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis.
Hedges added that his workers' compensation claim against the Atlanta-based airline in connection with his back injuries was also settled.
Hedges said that terms of the settlements in both filings prevent him from revealing any details.
"I would love to blab all over the place," said Hedges, of Minneapolis, who did say he will not be returning to his job with Delta. "I need to abide by the confidentiality of the agreements."
Roger Poehls, an attorney who represented Hedges in his workers' compensation case, said, "I think all parties were satisfied with the results. It was a difficult situation for someone that spent so much time working for the airlines."
Delta officials declined to comment on the settlements.
Hedges, a baggage handler and ramp worker who started with Northwest Airlines and was once a top union official, claimed in his suit filed in May that he was fired in December for publicly stating in a video interview for the online labor publication Workday Minnesota that "a lot of Delta workers make less than $15 an hour and are very concerned about this issue. In fact, I would say probably close to half make less than that."
Hedges, who gained a following among ground workers at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport because of his campaign for higher wages, said Delta told him the comments were "disparaging, untruthful and misleading."
Hedges' suit alleged previous run-ins with management at Delta over his efforts to organize a union for ground workers after the airline acquired Northwest in 2008.
At Northwest, baggage handlers and ramp workers were represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). Delta's ground workers were not unionized and an attempt by the IAM to organize the unit failed.
In early 2012, Hedges said he was questioned by Delta after he made critical comments about Delta's use of part-time workers in ground jobs.
Later, Hedges said he was given a "final warning" for violating Delta's "advocacy policy" for attempting to get workers to sign union authorization cards. His appeals were denied.
In 2014, Hedges became involved in a national organization called 15 Now, which is attempting to get the minimum wage increased to $15 an hour. Hedges subsequently was fired and his appeal was denied in February.
Hedges said Monday that his physical limitations leave his future uncertain.
"My back is pretty messed, so we'll see if there's employment that I can do," he said. "I certainly plan within my restrictions to continue to be active in union organizing for the minimum wage, for Minneapolis-St. Paul and at the airport."
Poehls, Hedges' attorney, said Monday that "any employee who survives out there as long as Kip did deserves praise. I have had numerous calls and inquiries about how individuals could help Kip. He was a very well liked individual [and] is always a very well-spoken advocate for the employees out there at the airport."
Star Tribune staff writer David Phelps contributed to this report.