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Southwest Airlines Pilots Approved Strike

An overwhelming majority of unionized pilots voted yes on the union’s call for a strike
Photo: SWAPA | Facebook

This could be a bumpy summer season for those planning to travel by air. Since the beginning of the year, workers from different airlines have been organizing demonstrations across the country demanding better working conditions amidst contract negotiations. Now Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) held a strike authorization vote that resulted in a historic turnout.

According to SWAPA, from the 98% of pilots who participated in the vote, 99% voted to authorize the strike. “This is a historic day, not only for our pilots but for Southwest Airlines,” said SWAPA President Casey Murray. “The lack of leadership and the unwillingness to address the failures of our organization have led us to this point. Our pilots are tired of apologizing to our passengers on behalf of a company that refuses to place its priorities on its internal and external customers.”

The company started 2023 on the wrong foot — following the disastrous December 2022’s system meltdown, off-duty flight attendants represented by the TWU Local 556 union organized an informational picket outside Dallas Love Field airport in early March 2023, demanding improvement of working conditions as well as a modernization of the airline’s system. 

According to a social media post shared by TWU Local 566, the union began negotiations with the company in Dallas on May 2 through 4, but the success of this negotiation is unclear. “It is clear from these discussions that the company has devalued your role as Flight Attendants,” read the post. “You are overworked, underpaid, and rescheduled again and again. While the company pays dividends to shareholders, you go without the compensation you deserve.”

Meanwhile, Southwest Airlines responded to the SWAPA vote results in an official statement, saying that the vote has no impact on the company’s schedule operations and that it is “staffed and prepared to welcome travelers for their summer travel plans.”

While the company noted that the results don’t affect its commitment to the negotiation process, the pilot union hopes it will invigorate its negotiation team. “Today, our Pilots have empowered our Negotiating Committee Chair, Captain Jody Reven, to petition the National Mediation Board to release us to self-help imminently at which time we will follow the process set forth by the Railway Labor Act and continue toward a strike.”

The SWAPA vote comes at a time when several other airlines are undergoing contract negotiations. Following Delta Airlines’ agreement and new four-year contract with its pilots, Allied Pilots Association, the union representing American Airlines pilots voted to approve a strike and thousands picketed outside some of the most important airports in the country.