The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA), the labor union that represents the pilots of the Dallas-based air carrier, announced that its members have overwhelmingly voted for approving a union strike mandate yesterday.
Union members’ vote, authorizing a potential labor action, came just as the hectic summer season is about to kick in.
With 98% participation and 99% of members authorizing the strike, SWAPA signaled a strike could possibly happen at any time.
According to Southwest Airlines representatives, pilots’ vote to authorize the labor action will have no immediate effect on the carrier’s operations and is not likely to lead to a walkout in the near future.
SWAPA President, Casey Murray, said the association will request the permission to strike from the mediators, but will act in strict accordance with the law.
Union president said: “The lack of leadership and the unwillingness to address the failures of our organization have led us to this point.
“Our pilots are tired of apologizing to our passengers on behalf of a company that refuses to place its priorities on its internal and external customers.’
“We want our passengers to understand that we do not take this path lightly and are disheartened that the LUV airline has gotten so far away from the values set forth by Herb Kelleher.
“We want our customers to be prepared for the path ahead and make arrangements on other carriers so that their plans through the summer and fall are not disrupted.”
Under the United States’ laws, air carrier employees are not allowed to legally strike, unless the action is approved by the federal mediators after deciding that any further bargaining is futile.
But even after the federal mediator’s approval, the strike can still be blocked by the President and US Congress.
The negotiations over the new contract between the Southwest Airlines and the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association have been ongoing for over three years now.
In the meantime, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says they expect 2023 summer air travel volumes to surpass pre-pandemic levels, and industry experts say that many of the issues that led to last year’s meltdown have not been resolved.