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Southwest Airlines pilots union president resigns

Southwest Airlines pilots union president resigned on Tuesday, less than a week after the pilots rejected a tentative contract. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis)
Southwest Airlines pilots union president resigned on Tuesday, less than a week after the pilots rejected a tentative contract. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis) Star-Telegram

Southwest Airlines pilots union president Paul Jackson resigned on Tuesday, less than a week after the pilots rejected a tentative agreement.

Jackson will step down on December 31 and Mike Panebianco will serve as president pro-tem until a new president is elected. The committee that negotiated the tentative agreement that included pay raises also submitted their resignations.

“An institutional change in direction in your Union is required after a failed Tentative Agreement ratification,” Jackson said in a letter sent to pilots. “I hope for our pilots' sake there is an understanding of just how deeply that change must go to navigate a successful contractual vote.”

Last week, pilots voted 62 percent against a four-year contract that included significant pay raises. The tentative agreement would have run through April 1, 2019, and included pay raises totaling 17.6 percent. It also created pilot subsets for international and Boeing 737-MAX flying which the company had requested.

After the contract rejection, Southwest said negotiations would likely restart next spring.

Keep reading for the full letter from Jackson to the 8,000 Southwest pilots.

Letter from SWAPA president Paul Jackson

Members of the Board,

An institutional change in direction in your Union is required after a failed Tentative Agreement ratification. I hope for our pilots' sake there is an understanding of just how deeply that change must go to navigate a successful contractual vote. The first step is a change in the Negotiating Committee. In that regard, the entire SWAPA Negotiating Committee has submitted their resignation to me and will be transitioning back to full time line flying on January 1, 2016. Until that time, they have agreed to be available to SWAPA leadership, staff, or the new Negotiating Chair as required to help transition the team into their upcoming bargaining in 2016. There must be a smooth succession. I believe we've learned from past mistakes and recognize the value in transitioning from one negotiating team to the next. I personally thank them for their service and assistance in making the transition.

The second step is leadership of SWAPA. After careful and thorough consideration, I have decided to resign as President of the Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association, effective December 31st, 2015. At that time, Captain Mike Panebianco will serve as the president pro-tem until the membership can elect the next president.

Your vice presidents, Captain Panebianco and Captain Gasparolo, will immediately begin handling all strategy and logistics regarding member communications and the transition to a new Negotiating Committee.

The nomination and election process for your next president will begin immediately and will follow the process outlined in the SWAPA Constitution and By-Laws. This transition will be paced with the seating of the 2016 Board of Directors and allow for a measured, logical process. The normal business of SWAPA will continue during this time. Critical services like Contract Administration, Safety, Training, Scheduling Research, and Benefits will continue, uninterrupted, by this leadership change.

It is time for the pilots of Southwest to move forward together. It is time for your Union and its members to take on the tasks that lie ahead. It is time to bargain from a position of strength and unity as a group.

In that spirit, let us look forward and take the next steps in attaining a fair and equitable contract.

Sincerely,

Captain Paul Jackson

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