Southwest pilots’ union calls a vote to authorize a potential strike

A Southwest Airlines passenger plane lands at Chicago Midway International Airport in Chicago, Illinois on December 28, 2022.

Kamil Krzaczynski | AFP | Getty Images

Southwest Airlines The pilots’ union plans to hold a vote that could give it the power to call a possible strike, a move that comes weeks after the airline collapsed over the bank holiday, further straining relations with unions.

Even if Southwest’s pilots voted to give the union the power to call a strike, it would not happen immediately and would require approval from the Federal Conciliation Committee.

Southwest and the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association have been negotiating a new deal for years.

Union leaders have focused on better labor rules and schedules for workers in the South West. During last month’s travel chaos, many pilots and flight attendants were stranded and had to wait in queues to reach planners or hotel services.

Union leader Casey Murray said it was the first time it had held a vote to authorize a strike.

“This decision isn’t based on emotion, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t angry,” Murray wrote to the pilots. He said the union was also negotiating “gratitude payments to compensate our pilots who suffered from the meltdown.”

Strike voting will begin on May 1, Murray said. Planning for this point means that “we can best prepare and give our customers time to book elsewhere so they can have confidence in their summer vacations, honeymoons and family outings,” he wrote to members.

Southwest Airlines did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Delta Airlines Pilots voted in October to allow the union to authorize a strike, although the union and company reached a tentative agreement on a new contract about a month later.

Labor negotiations are underway across the US airline industry, with unions seeking higher wages and better working conditions after airlines sought to rapidly increase flight capacity as the Covid crisis eased strained employees and crews.

Southwest is scheduled to report quarterly earnings on Jan. 26, and executives are likely to face questions from analysts about possible employment contracts and the impact of the thousands of furlough cancellations. The airline said the incident could have cost it more than $800 million.

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