DALLAS – Bargaining teams for Southwest’s flight attendants and the airline’s management will sit down in Dallas today to begin negotiations for a successor agreement. “We are committed to maintaining the industry’s leading contract for flight attendants and also ensuring the continued success of the airline,” said Audrey Stone, the new Transport Workers Union Local 556 president. TWU Local 556 represents the 11,000 flight attendants at Southwest.
Since the last major round of negotiations in 2009, the low-cost carrier, recognized as the most profitable domestic airline, has made a number of significant changes, including merging with AirTran and purchasing aircraft that can fly over water to international destinations. Southwest also has made major additions to its route map. The flight attendants’ contract became “amendable” on May 31. Under the Railway Labor Act, the federal law that sets collective bargaining rules for airline and railroad workers, contracts don’t have end dates; they become open to changes or, in other words, amendable.
“We have a strong negotiating team in place, and they have been hard at work for months preparing for these talks,” said Stone. The TWU bargaining team conducted multiple member surveys and traveled to all Southwest base cities to talk with flight attendants.
Southwest’s flight attendants’ union has gone through two transitions of officers in the past year. This month, Stone advanced to the union’s top position. Following this week’s contract talks, Stone, along with the rest of the negotiating team, will travel to nine cites where flight attendants are domiciled to brief members on the ongoing negotiations.
This has been an eventful month for Local 556; in addition to the start of bargaining and a transition of officers, the union is celebrating its successful effort to reverse a TSA policy proposal that would have allowed pocket knives, large sticks and clubs to be carried on commercial aircraft. TWU Local 556 was the first flight attendant group to speak out about the proposed policy change. Other unions, along with passenger groups, quickly joined the local in opposing the measure. After a three-month battle in the media, at local airports and in the halls of government, TSA rescinded the policy.
TWU Local 556 represents 11,000 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines. The Transport Workers Union of America represents 200,000 workers and retirees, primarily in commercial aviation, public transportation and passenger railroads and is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.