Southwest Airlines: not so luvly to employees

DALLAS – Transport Workers Union 555 invited supporters to help them picket Love Field here on March 28. Around 75 union members and supporters carried out a very enthusiastic rally. 

The union’s contract with Southwest Airlines became amendable under the Railway Labor Act nearly two years ago. Since then, workers say the company has stalled in negotiations and brought an ever-increasing list of demands for cuts. Health care is an issue, as it is in nearly all negotiations between bosses and employees nowadays. Management wants to change their sick-pay rules.

A particularly unbearable demand from management is the union give-up a substantial part of their bargaining unit. The company wants to outsource baggage handling at all the smaller airports it serves. Southwest Airlines was originally a small regional airline with gates all over Texas.

Southwest advertised itself as “the luv airline” as a play on the fact that Love Field, the last airport that President Kennedy used, was their main base. Southwest was once well known among transportation workers as a good place to work. Longtime CEO Herb Kelleher had a reputation for fairness with the employees. Some of the original employees became relatively wealthy on employee stock options. Television ads still show happy baggage handlers eagerly carrying out the “bags fly free” slogan. 

Today, it’s not so luvly.

Photo: At the Love Field picket line, union members and supporters remind management it was union workers who helped build the company (PW/Jim Lane).