More than 1,300 off-duty but uniformed pilots of Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) lined up along the sidewalks of the Dallas Love Field Airport (KDAL) Tuesday to demand a new contract. Despite sweltering heat nearing 100 degrees, some of the pilots—who in total represent 8 percent of the Dallas-based airline’s 9,600 pilot workforce—brought their families along to protest as well.
The family that Informational Pickets together, stays together. Proud to stand with my family — along with 1,300 other Southwest Airlines Pilots Association Union members in Dallas today — who 896 days ago proposed a new, industry-leading contract. #IStandWithSWAPA pic.twitter.com/T9CtWeOJKE— Kimberly Miller (@khmiller182) June 21, 2022
Holding up signs with phrases such as, “Our passengers and pilots deserve better,” and “delayed, rescheduled, canceled,” bore the frustrations of the disgruntled pilots who’ve seemingly exhausted their options for better pay and work rules.
According to the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association (SWAPA, the Southwest pilots’ union), its pilots have not had improvement to their contracts, even though the association proposed one to the airline nearly 900 days before the protest. Moreover, SWAPA says pilots have dealt with hundreds of thousands of schedule changes while being asked to fly on their days off.
Under terms of the Railway Labor Act governing airline union negotiations, pilot contracts do not expire but become amendable on a specific date. For Southwest pilots, SWAPA says, the current contract became amendable in September 2020 with an early opener option for March 1, 2020. The pandemic forced airlines into a tough spot in March 2020, with many just returning to profitability amid surging demand.
The Railway Labor Act (RLA) also prevents airline employees from an outright strike to prevent widespread travel disruptions. Instead, the RLA encourages workers and management to negotiate as best as possible. Unionized airline workers can picket in uniform during their off time to pressure management to act in good faith.
Pilots of other major airlines around the country have also been locked in labor and wage disputes with their respective management. Alaska Airlines Pilot group, also in its negotiation, tweeted their support for the SWAPA pilots.