Sky Talk

No. 2 Labor tensions rise at Southwest Airlines

Members of Transport Workers Union 555, ground workers at Southwest Airlines, had an informational picket at Dallas Love Field on Tuesday, November 25, 2014. (Star-Telegram/Joyce Marshall)
Members of Transport Workers Union 555, ground workers at Southwest Airlines, had an informational picket at Dallas Love Field on Tuesday, November 25, 2014. (Star-Telegram/Joyce Marshall) Star-Telegram

There wasn’t a lot of love between Southwest Airlines management and its unions in 2015.

Although it negotiated new contracts for a few of its smaller union groups, both its pilots and flight attendants rejected proposed contracts that included pay raises in exchange for work rule changes.

The pilots rejected the contract with 62 percent against it and then ousted its union president in November. The flight attendants overwhelmingly voted against their proposed contract, with 87 percent against it. At the time, the union said the work rule changes “were considered by many voters to be overreaching and burdensome on flight attendants.”

Then a few weeks before Christmas, Southwest suspended 100 ground workers, alleging they had participated in an illegal sickout. The workers were suspended without pay for 45 to 90 days and its union, the Transport Workers Union Local 555, began raising money to help the affected workers. TWU Local 555 has been in contract negotiations with the company for over four years.

But there may be a glimmer of hope that labor relations are improving at Southwest.

The day before Christmas eve, management and the TWU Local 555 reached an “agreement in principle” on a new contract for the ground workers. The union board is meeting this week to decide if workers will vote on the proposed agreement.

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