Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Decline Proposed Contract

In a recent development, Southwest Airlines flight attendants have turned down a contract proposal that was negotiated between their union and the airline. The Transport Workers Union Local 556 announced on December 8, 2023, that the proposed contract was rejected by a significant majority of 64% to 36%.

The vote comes after a prolonged negotiation period of five years, during which the flight crews did not receive any pay raises. Lyn Montgomery, the president of the local union, expressed her disappointment with the outcome but affirmed the union’s commitment to securing a collective bargaining agreement that meets the needs of the flight attendants.

Despite the rejection, the proposed contract would have provided Southwest flight attendants with industry-leading pay, surpassing even the non-unionized crews at Delta Air Lines by 16%. Southwest Airlines, based in Dallas, expressed its disappointment at the rejection of what it considered an industry-leading agreement.

The airline is now awaiting further steps from the union and the National Mediation Board, which has been involved in the negotiations. Concurrently, Southwest is also in negotiations with its pilots, who have twice requested federal mediators for permission to initiate a 30-day countdown to a strike, but have been denied both times.

The rejection of the contract by Southwest flight attendants mirrors similar negotiations happening at American Airlines and United Airlines, where flight attendants, represented by different unions, are also in talks over new contracts.

Frequently Asked Questions
What is a collective bargaining agreement?
A collective bargaining agreement is a contract negotiated between an employer and a labor union that establishes the terms and conditions of employment, such as wages, hours, and working conditions.

What is the role of the National Mediation Board?
The National Mediation Board is a U.S. government agency that facilitates labor-management relations within the nation’s railroad and airline industries. It mediates disputes and oversees union elections.

What does it mean to initiate a 30-day countdown to a strike?
Initiating a 30-day countdown to a strike is a formal process in labor negotiations. After a certain period of unsuccessful negotiations, a union may request federal mediators for permission to begin a countdown to a strike. If granted, this initiates a 30-day “cooling-off” period. If no agreement is reached during this time, the union may legally go on strike.

What is the significance of the flight attendants rejecting the contract?
The rejection of the contract by the flight attendants indicates dissatisfaction with the terms proposed by the airline and the union. It means that the union and the airline will have to return to the negotiating table to address the concerns of the flight attendants. This could potentially lead to disruptions in the airline’s operations if an agreement is not reached promptly.