A union representing Southwest Airline employees held a nationwide strike Tuesday.
Ground crews for the airline participated in the strike with the hope of amending their current contract to include a collective bargaining agreement. The strike was organized by the Local 555 chapter of the Transport Workers Union of America, which represent ramp operators who work for Southwest.
Participants handed out leaflets in Dallas, Buffalo, Seattle, Indianapolis, Cleveland, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Denver, Fort Myers, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Reno, San Diego and San Jose.
“We hope to bring these issues to the public,” Local 555 president Charles Cerf, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. Cerf said the union had been negotiating with the airline since 2011.
“They want to increase part time workers from 10 percent to 30 percent,” he explained. “Part-time workers don’t get the same benefits.”
Cerf argued that nearly 40 percent of workers have not received a pay raise since 2010, even though the airline is “expected to make well over $1 billion in the next year.”
In the last few years, since negotiations began, the union has held several strikes and protests but has been unable to solve these few lingering disagreements. Cerf is optimistic seeing this recent round of protests as potentially the “largest one” yet with “10,000 members across the country” participating.
In a statement provided to TheDCNF, Southwest said, “Informational picketing is a common practice during negotiations and will not impact our operations.”
“We have always supported our Employees and their right to express their opinions,” the airline continued. “Furthermore, we share the Union’s sense of urgency to secure an agreement that is fair to all Employees, enables the Company to grow, and protects our position as a low-cost leader in the industry.”
Southwest went onto argue, “TWU 555 Employees (Ramp, Operations, Provisioning, and Cargo Agents) at Southwest have the highest pay rates in the industry.”
“Agents with less than 12 years seniority continue to receive guaranteed annual raises” Southwest explained. “Our top-of-scale Ramp, Operations, Provisioning, and Cargo Agents have not only kept pace with the cost of living, but they earn eight to 45 percent more than their counterparts at other airlines. From 2000 until now, during which time our competitors slashed pay and benefits, our base rates for our Employees have increased more than 37 percent.”
“We’ve made multiple offers to TWU 555 that have gone unaccepted or ignored, ” Southwest’s statement concluded. “Our proposals would put more money in Employees’ pockets, improving individual compensation by thousands of dollars per year.”
Southwest added, “In exchange for increased compensation, the Company is seeking more operational flexibility in a manner that safeguards Employees from negative impacts in a competitive industry – helping preserve and add more jobs in the future.”
The strike is not expected to disrupt holiday travel.
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