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The trend of airline workers refusing to accept concessionary agreements during times of record airline profits continues.

Southwest Airlines flight attendants have overwhelmingly voted down the tentative agreement presented to them by their union, TWU Local 556.

Our last vote report:

NO: 9916 (87.3%)

YES: 1446 (12.7%)

89 percent of flight attendants at Southwest voted on this tentative agreement. This vote will most likely result in the removal of some members of the negotiating team.

Southwest sent the following to employees:

Southwest Flight Attendants have voted down a tentative agreement that would have ended two years of negotiations. Representatives for Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 556 say Flight Attendants rejected the deal by 87 percent of those casting ballots. Nearly 89 percent of eligible Flight Attendants voted.

“This agreement ensured that our Flight Attendants would stay atop the industry in pay and benefits,” said Randy Babbitt, Southwest Senior Vice President Labor Relations. “It improved the Company’s competitiveness with certain work-rule changes and supported our evolving network, both domestically and in international markets. So naturally we’re disappointed that it didn’t pass.”

The deal was slated to run through May 2019 and contained fixed wage increases, cash bonuses, and quality of life improvements. Southwest says it remains committed to reaching an agreement that best serves the interests of both the Company and its Flight Attendants.

“Knowing how volatile our industry can be, I can’t imagine a better time to secure an agreement,” said Vice President Cabin Services Mike Hafner. “But together we will find a way to move forward. Southwest Flight Attendants are the finest in the industry, and I am continuously proud of their consistent efforts and the caring service they provide our Customers.”

Southwest expects TWU leadership will take some time to evaluate the results prior to returning to direct bargaining. But for now, Southwest Flight Attendants will continue working under the terms of their current agreement.

Most Southwest flight attendants didn’t like the agreement from the start

Many flight attendants had complained that the tentative agreement did not properly reward them for their continued contribution to Southwest’s success. Some crewmembers have also viewed the relationship between the union officers and Southwest management as inappropriately close and the rushed voting period for the tentative agreement as suspicious. The voting period was timed to end just in time for Southwest’s latest quarterly financial announcement.

Announced yesterday:  Southwest Airlines posted net income of $608 million in the second quarter, its highest quarterly profit ever. 

The following is a letter sent from TWU 556’s president and lead negotiator:

Dear Member,

 As reported today by the TWU Local 556 Board of Election, the Membership has voted to reject a new six-year Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Contract was rejected by 87% of voting Flight Attendants.

I appreciate the high voter turnout and thank the 11,375 Flight Attendants who voted. Democracy works best when Members take an active role in their Union.
We have much work to do on the heels of this vote. First, we have to conduct surveys and have dialogue with the Membership around the system to ascertain the best approach on moving forward. We must also discuss and re-prioritize our key issues and Contract Articles since the rejected Tentative Agreement (TA) deal is now off the table. Second, we cannot just assume that Southwest Airlines Management will give in to our demands — and we surely will not ever just give in to their demands. As a result, we have been developing a Contract action plan. We will need to mobilize our Members in very active ways. I will be calling upon each of you to get involved. Lastly, and importantly, we must continue to be the leading advocates for the well-known Southwest Airlines Culture. Our Membership must make sure that our special and successful culture is maintained, especially as our airline expands into the future.
As I promised, regardless of the outcome of the vote, your Union leadership is fully prepared to move forward. Now that the voting has concluded and we start a new round of bargaining, it is imperative that we maintain our Unity as we go forward. This was a vigorously debated and discussed TA. This is a good thing.  However, while we debated ideas, we should never debate the value of standing together as a strong and united Union. Let’s move forward together as one TWU Local 556.
Thank you.
Audrey Stone
TWU Local 556 President and Lead Negotiator