Friday, July 21, 2017

Southwest Airlines Fires Too Many People, Labor Union Leader Says

This story does not come as a shock to me! I was an Operations Agent / Supervisor with Southwest Airlines before I retired last year after 21 years with the airline. I was hired when Herb Kelleher was running the airline and when you hear all the stories of how good it was in those days well those stories are true, it was fantasic.

Since Herb retired and Gary Kelly has taken over, employee moral has gotten progressively worse over the years. It has gotten much worse since the company bought AirTran Airways a few years back. Kelly has allowed AirTran management to make changes in how the airline is run (doing things the AirTran way) which has driven employee moral down even further.

Southwest does not take care of its front line supervisors as they should either. While I was there the airline continually took away benefits while at the same time telling our group that we must take on even more responsibilities. Sure I got an hourly raise but I would have much rather kept my benefits than the xtra $2 dollars an hour.

When the new 555 contract was signed in year 2016, we were told by station management that corporate in Dallas insisted we now write-up agents for even the smallest infractions (I refused to do this), this is when I made the very tough decision to retire. It has been a year now and though I miss my airline, I have come to realize it is the old Southwest I miss not the new.

It is not the LUV airline it once was, it is a top heavy (management laden) company and as long as Kelly and his AirTran cronies run the store it will make money but at the cost of its most important asset, its front line employees.

Michael Carter
Aero Pacific Flightlines


The president of the Transport Workers Union, the largest labor union at Southwest Airlines Co. has written a scathing letter that condemns "intolerable and cancerous" working conditions for the carrier's ground-workers and decries mistreatment including 2,700 disciplinary actions and 468 terminations since January 2015.

"Ground-workers are flagrantly mistreated and abused by management," wrote John Samuelsen, president of the New York-based union that represents 12,000 Southwest groundworkers as well as 15,000 flight attendants. The letter refers to the ground workers, members of TWU Local 555.

In 2017, Samuelsen said, "Southwest is writing up nearly three workers per day and firing one worker every other day."

"The outright hostility to the workforce has obliterated morale, which can only have a negative impact on the passenger experience," he wrote. "The TWU finds it hard to believe that Southwest finds this to be an ideal business model."

The letter, sent late Wednesday, was signed by Samuelsen, Local 555 President Greg Puriski and 13 other TWU leaders. They said they are available to meet with airline executives as soon as possible.

In morning trading, Southwest shares were down 0.51%.

Russell McCrady, Southwest's vice president of labor relations, said the carrier is committed to "efforts to maintain strong, constructive relationships with our employees' representational groups including TWU 555.

"Discipline is a necessary part of business but any discipline we administer is far from 'arbitrary,'" McCrady said in a prepared statement. "We do not take for granted that Southwest continues to be named a best place to work and best employer by national publications and we are very proud that our employee culture is the foundation for these designations."

McCrady said Southwest will respond to Samuelsen's letter and welcomes the opportunity to meet.

Southwest employs about 54,000 workers including about 7,200 hired in both 2016 and 2015, said spokeswoman Beth Hardin. She said the number of terminations over three years is not atypical for the number of workers involved.

Local 555 signed a five-year contract in 2016. In an interview, Samuelsen said the letter is not related to contract negotiations but rather represents an effort "to fight Southwest on working conditions that are now entrenched on the property, on an antiquated labor relations model designed to drive production {that} drives morale down across Southwest properties."

TWU has about 200,000 members, including 42,000 in Local 100, which represents New York City bus and subway workers. Samuelsen headed Local 100 until he took over the TWU presidency in May.

"I'm a new president, taking note of a situation at Southwest where people are being fired and unfairly disciplined," he said. "I found that to be intolerable."

(Tim Reed - The Street)

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