Southwest Airlines pilots gathered outside the company’s headquarters in Dallas Thursday to protest a $600 per ticket event showcasing the airline’s “culture.”
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) organized an informational picket outside of Southwest Airlines’ Culture Connection event for the morning and late afternoon of October 26, as reported by Cision.
According to SWAPA, the picket was organized to “demonstrate to Southwest’s leadership that its pilots are tired of operating under an outdated contract that allows needless delays and cancellations for customers, while the carrier holds conferences lauding its vaunted culture.”
“‘Southwest Culture’ has become little more than a punchline when it comes to how employees are treated at our airline,” said SWAPA president Captain Casey Murray in a statement ahead of Thursday’s picket.
“We are losing pilots daily to other carriers due to better pay and benefits,” he added.
Southwest Airlines and SWAPA have been stuck in back-and-forth negotiating over a new pilot contract since September 2020. While the union says it has attempted to bargain with Southwest leadership in good faith, no definitive agreement has been reached.
Therefore, Murray says it is time for “Southwest Airlines to do what they profess and put their employees first instead of spending time and money on events such as these.”
“We are the last pilot group of the Big Four to still be in negotiations. That speaks volumes as to Southwest’s dedication to its employees and its culture,” Murray concluded.
SWAPA had previously asked the National Mediation Board (NMB) to be released from mediation when contract negotiations were failing to materialize in a deal back in August. The union argued that no meaningful progress had been made with Southwest officials on critical issues like pilot pay, work rules, pilot fatigue, and scheduling, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
NMB, which regulates labor-management relations in the airline and railroad industries, ultimately rejected the union’s request.
Although SWAPA has not yet agreed to new contract terms for its over 10,000 Southwest pilots, negotiations are nearing an end between the Dallas-based carrier and the Transport Workers Union Local 556 (TWU), representing Southwest’s nearly 19,000 Flight Attendants.
“I’m thankful for the work from both negotiating committees throughout this process and the guidance from our National Mediation Board federal mediators,” said Adam Carlisle, vice president of labor relations at Southwest Airlines. “We are all glad our Flight Attendants will soon have an opportunity to vote on this agreement.”
The Dallas Express reached out to Southwest for comment about the pilots’ picket but had not heard back at the time of publishing. While Southwest has not publicly addressed Thursday’s demonstration, the airline previously stated that it values the union’s decision to picket and would continue working to negotiate the best deal for both sides.
“Southwest respects the rights of our Employees to participate and express their opinions in respectful demonstrations,” the statement read. “Our negotiations continue this week, and we’ll keep working, with the assistance of the National Mediation Board, to reach an agreement that rewards our Pilots and places them competitively in the industry.”