Airline Workers to Picket at Dallas Airports Ahead of Holidays


American Airlines and Southwest Airlines Planes | Image by Shtterstock

As passengers ready themselves for another busy holiday season, the strife between airline workers and management over slow contract negotiations has finally spilled over to a planned two-hour picket in November at two Dallas-area airports.

American Airlines flight attendants and Southwest Airlines dispatchers plan to picket at Dallas Fort Worth International and Love Field airports this month, hoping to add public pressure on management to conclude contract negotiations amid an ongoing stalemate.

As airlines prepare for the likelihood of a busy travel stretch over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the timing of the picket could prove to be the perfect storm to end the ongoing labor negotiations.

The Airport Informational Picketing event, titled “Day of Action,” will take place on November 15 from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m. (local time). Picketing will take place at the following locations: Boston, New York – JFK, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. – DCA, Charlotte, Miami, Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Phoenix, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

“On Tuesday, November 15, 2022, we will be joining the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) on the picket line throughout the system to visibly support their Negotiating Committee in their fight for a fair contract at American Airlines,” the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) said in a statement.

“The latest contract proposals, many of which are outlined in this Negotiations Update, include reasonable improvements for Flight Attendants. These proposals have been largely rejected,” said the AFA, adding that contractual improvements are needed to address operational reliability challenges and improve work-life for Flight Attendants.

Julie Hedrick, president of the APFA, which represents 22,000 workers at American Airlines, believes flight attendants are currently running on fumes and have been overworked to a much greater extent than they were pre-COVID.

Despite recently adding about 100 newly hired flight attendants to its roster, American Airlines “can’t just keep up with the attrition” due to so many quitting, retiring, or getting fired, Hedrick said.

To date, multiple offers have been extended to pilots at Delta, United, and American Airlines. Pilots at United Airlines were reportedly offered 15% pay raises, and American Airlines offered its pilots nearly 19% increases.

Each proposal, however, has failed to reach unanimous approval and was rejected in favor of more concrete benefits. Union negotiators are reportedly seeking various benefit improvements and “quality-of-life” changes, including higher pay, better work-life balance, mandatory overtime, and a fix to the erroneous scheduling system.

“We’ve been crushed by inflation. The money is coming, there’s no question about it,” said Dennis Tajer, an American Airlines Boeing 737 captain and spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents some 15,000 pilots at the carrier. “What this is really about is the work-life balance and restoring the reliability of airlines — and doing that not on the backs of pilots.”

Southwest, Delta, and FedEx pilot unions have reportedly sought federal mediation to resolve their contract standstill.

Contract negotiations between various staff and management at Southwest Airlines have not gone much better, considering nearly two-thirds of its workforce are negotiating new labor deals. These groups include pilots, flight attendants, ramp workers, and customer service agents.

“We’re in mediation with both our pilots and our flight attendants, and I’m hopeful that helps, and it helps move us to a deal sooner,” Southwest CEO Robert Jordan said during the company’s third-quarter earnings call. “Because, again, I want to get contracts, and we’d love to get them soon with our awesome employees.”

The uncertainty surrounding the future of air travel and its bleak financial outlook during the COVID-19 pandemic led many airlines and unions to postpone negotiations, said Gary Peterson, vice president for the Transport Workers Union.

That is why we are seeing numerous negotiations take place all at once, he said. Airlines were wrong to assume staff would come back to work these jobs, given the tight labor market.

In addition, Peterson added, pilots have become emboldened by the simultaneous negotiations, which allowed them to reject multiple deals from American, United, and Delta that included raises up to 20%. Other groups engaged in ongoing talks include customer service agents, dispatchers, and meteorologists.

TWU Local 550, the Union representing the 400 flight dispatchers and 10 meteorologists of Southwest Airlines, called on its members to picket at Dallas Love Field the Monday after Thanksgiving.

November’s picketing events are not likely to disrupt airline operations. A government mandate prohibits workers from striking without approval from federal mediators.

“We would like to have an industry-leading contract, and that would mean a pay raise in the neighborhood of 20% to 25% right off the bat,” said Brian Brown, TWU Local 550 president.

While the airline companies are not keen on publicizing the details of their contract negotiations, America Airlines CEO Robert Isom offered this comment on a quarterly sales call late last month: “We negotiate with a mind to making sure that we take care of our team and that we take care of the company as well. And it’s in the best interests of our pilots and flight attendants and everybody in this company.”

Isom assured stockholders, “There’s win-win deals that will be had out there.”

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4 months ago

20-25% pay raise. There go the price of tickets. Glad I never fly.