The Southwest Airlines pilots union is preparing for a strike vote scheduled on May 1, the first in its history.
The call on Wednesday for a potential work stoppage follows the airline’s disastrous meltdown during the recent holiday season, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Casey Murray, Southwest Airlines Pilots Association president, called the potential strike a “historic action,” claiming that there remains an “utter lack of meaningful progress on a contract negotiation, with scheduling work rules and information technology asks in particular, that has been ongoing for more than three years.”
“It is not a decision we have taken lightly, but given the trajectory of our current leadership group, we have little faith in the stability and future of our airline,” Murray said.
Leaders in the union were empowered to call for a strike vote by the membership in December.
“It’s scheduling,” Murray said of the reasons for the vote. “It is their inability to understand how they got here and what they need to do to correct it.”
Voting for a strike is one thing, but actually going on strike is another matter entirely, as pilots cannot strike without approval from federal labor officials.
All four major U.S. airlines — Delta, United, American, and Southwest — are currently negotiating with their pilots, who are seeking raises of 20-30% over the next four years, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Adam Carlisle, vice president of labor relations for Southwest Airlines, claimed that the union’s decision to authorize a strike vote “does not have a bearing on our work at the negotiating table” and “does not affect Southwest’s operation or our ability to take care of our customers.”
“We will continue to follow the process outlined in the Railway Labor Act and work, under the assistance of the National Mediation Board, toward reaching an agreement that rewards our pilots and places them competitively in the industry,” Carlisle said.
Southwest Airlines runs approximately 4,000 flights per day, servicing up to roughly 700,000 passengers.
Murray said the timing of the vote was discussed at great length by union leaders.
“We believe that May 1 provides a date that allows our union time to prepare and gives our customers time to book elsewhere so that they can have confidence that their summer vacations, honeymoons, and family outings are assured,” Murray said in a statement.
Negotiations between Southwest and the union are scheduled to start back up on January 24 with a federal mediator.