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Pilot’s Union Sues Southwest Airlines, Challenges Forced Time Off

The Union Threatens To Picket Southwest During Winter Travel High Season

On August 30th, The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association filed a complaint in federal court, declaring that the carrier implemented an "emergency extended time off" program, changed schedules and modified prescription drug and retirement benefits without first consulting or bargaining with the association, in violation of federal labor law. The union represents 9,000 pilots.

The “emergency extended time off” policy gave pilots the option to take time off without pay during the pandemic. The union added Southwest began leading some pilots into mandatory quarantine without pay starting December 2020 and continuing into Summer 2021. The suit states that Southwest altered its Infectious Disease Control Policy from ensuring pilots “will be paid” for missing work due to COVID-19 events to employees “may” be paid. The union has threatened to picket Southwest over the winter holiday travel season. 

"Southwest remains committed to Pilots' health and welfare and to working with SWAPA, and our other union partners, as we continue navigating the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic," said Russell McCrady, Southwest’s vice president of labor relations."The Safety of our Employees and Customers remains paramount at all times, and Southwest has a demonstrated legacy of putting Employees first in our decisions – including maintaining our 50-year history of no Employee furloughs or layoffs throughout the pandemic."

Pilots reminded Southwest that while they were working with the public, keeping the aircrafts flying, management protected themselves by staying at home. 

"While management employees protected themselves by closing down headquarter offices to work from home and meeting virtually, pilots, along with other front-line workers, did not have that option," the lawsuit reads.

"As hundreds of flights were being (and continued to be) canceled and Pilots are being overworked on the line and stranded overnight, all the while still at risk of COVID, and ever more with the Delta and Lambda strains, SWAPA has been vocal in demanding action by management," the suit reads.

FMI: www.swapa.org

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