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Southwest Airlines unions plan protests at shareholder meeting

Southwest Airlines pilots picketed outside of Dallas Love Field on Wednesday, February 3, 2016. The pilots have worked without a new contract since 2012.
Southwest Airlines pilots picketed outside of Dallas Love Field on Wednesday, February 3, 2016. The pilots have worked without a new contract since 2012. Star-Telegram

Southwest Airlines pilots, flight attendants and mechanics unions plan to picket outside of the company’s annual shareholder meeting when it is held in Chicago next week.

The unions said they are disappointed with the Dallas-based carrier’s management team as the two sides have been unable to agree on a new contract.

The pilots, who are represented by the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association, have worked with out a new contract since 2012 and have not had a raise since 2011.

“After nearly four years of negotiations, SWAPA has decided to demonstrate their collective displeasure to management, the flying public, and Southwest Airlines shareholders,” the pilots union said. “Four years, particularly during a time of record profits, is far too long for a company known for its “LUV” to not provide a worthy contract offer to its operational front-line leaders – the pilots.”

Last year, the pilots rejected a proposed four-year contract that included pay raises totaling 17.6 percent and created subsets for international and Boeing 737-MAX flying. The vote was 62 percent against the deal. Following the rejection, union president Capt. Paul Jackson resigned.

The pilots will picket at the Congress Plaza Hotel where the meeting will be held on Wednesday morning and then picket at Chicago Midway Airport in the afternoon.

The Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association said it also plans to join the picket along with the Transport Workers Union Local 556, which represents flight attendants.

“We are not alone in our disappointment with Southwest Airlines management team and their handling of our contract negotiations, and are honored to walk with SWAPA and TWU 556 in a show of solidarity,” said AMFA national director Louie Key. “Almost four years of negotiations is too long for our members to wait for a deserved contract in these times of record profits.”

Southwest reported record earnings for 2015 with net income of $2.2 billion. It also grew revenues by 6.5 percent to $19.8 billion for the year, as it benefited from low fuel prices and rapid growth at an unshackled Dallas Love Field.

“We continue to focus on having productive discussions at the negotiating table and ensuring we reach an agreement that will not only benefit our pilots today, but all of our employees and our customers well into the future,” Southwest said in a statement. “We maintain our steadfast commitment and 45-year history of taking care of our employees and serving our customers.”

The carrier is currently in contract talks with several different labor groups. In 2015, it reached a proposed contract with its flight attendants’ union, but the flight attendants overwhelming rejected the proposal. Its ground workers union narrowly approved a contract in February that gave the ramp workers and baggage handlers 20 percent raises over the five-year contract.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk