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Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Plan to Picket Outside Love Field Thursday

Date: March 8, 2023

Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Plan to Picket Outside Love Field Thursday

The picket is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and off-duty employees who were already scheduled off work

By Alanna Quillen Published March 2, 2023 • Updated on March 2, 2023 at 9:30 am


Heads up if you're flying out of Dallas Love Field on Thursday – hundreds of Southwest Airlines flight attendants will stage an informational picket outside the airport.

The picket is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. in the airport's valet drop-off area outside. Those picketing are off-duty employees who were already scheduled off work on Thursday so travelers should not expect travel disruptions.

This comes two months after the SWA operational meltdown that impacted hundreds of thousands passengers during the holidays, stranding many in airports across the country.

"Part of our fight and part of our campaign is that we're not just fighting for ourselves as flight attendants and our working conditions – we are fighting for our customers and our passengers who endure some of the same things we do when Southwest has one of these meltdowns,” said Michael Massoni, first vice president of TWU Local 556, the union that represents SWA flight attendants.

The pickets are actually following a pattern across the country recently. Southwest Airlines has been planning pep rallies across the country to boost employee morale after what happened in December.

But the flight attendants union has been staging pickets outside every one of those rallies. The last rally is being held in Dallas.

The airline told NBC 5 that informational picketing is common during times of contract negotiations.

However, the flight attendants union said negotiations for improved working conditions have been ongoing for at least four years. Southwest’s approximately 16,000 flight attendants have been working without a new contract since 2018, long before the pandemic changed the dynamic for the airline industry.

So many factors have prevented the airline and the flight attendants from reaching an agreement on a contract, including the pandemic, the Boeing MAX 8 crisis, and multiple system meltdowns as travel demand surged last year.

“So it is high time, especially given the draconian working conditions that we've been under lately,” said Massoni.

Some of the flight attendants' demands include:

  • Providing improved benefits like health insurance that continues coverage when someone is injured on the job, is battling cancer or had a baby.
  • Paying flight attendants for time worked, including when passengers are boarding and when flight attendants are required to work outside of hours originally scheduled.
  • Giving flight attendants control over their personal schedules when not at work.
  • Providing access to food and a safe place to rest when traveling on the job. The union said a lack of hot food and sometimes even hotel rooms leaves flight attendants with little to eat and sometimes sleeping on the airport floor.
  • Creating a modern reserve system that meets the needs of both the operation and employees, and ending the unsafe practice of putting flight attendants on 24-hour on-call shifts.
  • Fixing technology issues and other archaic systems that impact passengers and disproportionately impact frontline aviation workers, including flight attendants.

"I mean they are estimating that we will have, within the next two years, a fleet of 1,000 airplanes. We currently have a fleet of over 700 airplanes," said Massoni. "I mean, it's time to act like a big dog because you are."

Employees say they’re still using a system that hasn't changed much since the 1970s, one of which involves calling a phone number to check in for work, call out sick, or get updates on assignments during major weather incidents.

Massoni said many workers were on hold for as long as seven hours during the Christmas time chaos, no better than the customers who reported having to wait just as long if not longer for customer service support.

“I mean, we're one of the few airlines where we still have to physically call in if we're calling out sick,” said Massoni. “You have to talk to a person on a recorded line to accomplish that when it's the 21st century. But you can go to a secure virtual portal with your doctor and have conversations, you know? So it's just there's some real archaic, not just technologies and not just work rules, but archaic ways of thinking that have to change.”

NBC 5 reached out to Southwest Airlines for a statement regarding the informational pickets:

Informational picketing is common during times of contract negotiations, and Southwest respects our Flight Attendants’ right to conduct such events to express their viewpoints. We remain engaged in negotiations with TWU 556 and the National Mediation Board to achieve a new contract that rewards our Flights Attendants and allows us to continue attracting great talent.

Southwest Airlines

The airline also added gave an update on the promises Southwest leadership made to make things right after the holiday meltdown:

Southwest is currently budgeted to spend more than $1 billion in 2023 on investments, upgrades, and maintenance to support IT systems. The airline is, currently, participating in an assessment with a globally-recognized, third-party aviation consulting firm to help prioritize our efforts and investments. Southwest has demonstrated a 51-year history of serving Customers and Employees well by operating one of the world’s most admired airlines, and we are committed to offering our historical levels of reliability and Southwest Hospitality.

Southwest Airlines

Massoni said he is hopeful that the airline can solve issues for both employees and passengers at the time.

"So my hope is that 2023 will be the year that Southwest comes around and makes it right with its people by getting us the contract that we both deserve and want," said Massoni. "And that it makes things right with the traveling public by making sure that what happened in December absolutely never happens again. In fact, it can't ever happen again because I don't know if we would have jobs to go to and that wouldn't be our fault. It would be Southwest’s fault.”

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