About five years after Southwest Airlines allegedly fired a flight attendant for sending anti-abortion messages to her union’s president, the carrier will be paying her over $4 million per court mandate.
A North Texas jury found that the rights of a former flight attendant to advocate against her union had been violated by the Dallas-based airline and the union. Charlie Carter will now be paid $4.15 million in back pay and restitution. Transport Workers Union Local 556 (TWU Local 556) will pay her an additional $1.15 million.
In March 2017, Carter sent a series of messages to TWU Local 556 President Audrey Stone, confronting her for attending an earlier Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
Carter objected to how the union bosses spent “her conscripted money to advance political and moral positions completely contrary to her beliefs.”
According to the lawsuit she filed against her former workplace and the flight attendants’ union, Carter sent a Facebook message to Stone that reads, “This is what you supported during your paid leave with others at the Women’s March in D.C. … You truly are despicable in so many ways.”
Like many of her work peers, Carter did not like that the union leaders “promote social causes that many of them oppose.”
The union also supported about 20 to 30 other flight attendants in attending the march.
Stone did not respond to the messages, according to Carter, but Southwest management informed her of a mandatory meeting regarding the issue. It is not clear precisely when she was terminated.
The former flight attendant argued that her action was compliant with the Railway Labor Act, which allows her to engage in “protected speech and activity” in opposing and challenging the activities of Local 556 and President Stone.
Carter’s case was backed by the National Right to Work Committee, an anti-union group that opposes compulsory union membership and dues.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee and its Legal Defense Foundation, stated that Carter is a “committed Christian” who “strongly believes union officials have no business injecting themselves in policy battles over issues outside the workplace that are fundamental to her faith.”
Mix added that Carter’s religious liberty was violated by the union’s support of pro-abortion causes, and when she spoke against it, she was fired by the airline for whom she worked.
The National Right to Work Committee agreed, claiming, “The Southwest airlines executives who fired her were clearly acting in consort with TWU bosses.”
Southwest Airlines and the union tried to get the case dismissed. However, U.S. District Judge Brantley Starr rejected the attempts.
In a statement obtained by the DMN, a spokesman for Southwest, Brian Parrish, said that the company plans to appeal the case. Parrish added that the airline supports its employees’ free speech rights when exercised respectfully.
“Southwest Airlines has a demonstrated history of supporting its employees’ rights to express their opinions when done in a respectful manner,” Parrish said.