Southwest Airlines’ Messy New Flight Attendant Contract

Southwest Airlines’ Messy New Flight Attendant Contract

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Flight attendants at major airlines are currently trying to negotiate new contracts. We’ve seen pilots at several US airlines ratify new contracts with massive bonuses, and flight attendants are now trying to get in one the action as well.

On the surface, Southwest flight attendants are the furthest along when it comes to negotiating a contract, as the union representing flight attendants (TWU Local 556) tentatively approved a new contract. However, members aren’t happy with it, and it’s up to them to ratify it.

Now the fighting has turned from being between flight attendants and management, to being between union members. Let me explain.

Southwest’s tentative new flight attendant contract

In early November 2023, it was announced that Southwest Airlines’ management and the union representing flight attendants had tentatively agreed on a new contract, subject to a ratification vote by flight attendants.

With this proposed contract, flight attendants would get a 36% pay increase over the course of the five year contract period. This would include an immediate 20% pay increase as of January 2024, 3% annual pay increases in subsequent years, and even retroactive raises going back to late 2019.

The contract also had some other improvements, including increased pay for flight attendants on standby, plus additional overtime pay.

On the surface, this sounded like a great new contract. While union leadership seemingly believed that members would be happy with this, the sentiment quickly shifted, with many members expressing displeasure with the contract.

While highlighting the contract improvements on the union’s Facebook page, comments were turned off, so that members couldn’t even provide feedback, which isn’t exactly a great look.

TWU Local 556 Facebook page

The union seemingly forgot to turn off comments on one post, which a member then commented about… lol.

TWU Local 556 Facebook page

Southwest flight attendants reject the new contract

Last week, Southwest flight attendants concluded their voting on the new contract. 95% of flight attendants voted, which is amazing turnout… yet nearly two-thirds of flight attendants rejected the contract. 64% voted against it, while 36% voted in favor of it.

Southwest flight attendants rejected the contract

That’s quite a resounding rejection, and I’m surprised that the union leadership was so out of touch with what membership was willing to accept when this contract was proposed. Some would probably argue that those rejecting this contract are unrealistic, but I guess time will tell…

It’s worth acknowledging that unions in a given industry tend to do pattern bargaining, and flight attendants at other major US airlines don’t have new contracts yet. So presumably many Southwest flight attendants don’t want to settle for something, if they think competitors will get a better contract.

But wait… there were voting irregularities!

The current Southwest flight attendant contract situation gets even messier than the above. This week, union leadership has announced that there will be a re-vote, due to lack of election integrity. The union used TrueBallot to conduct the elections. The union explains that members reported many issues while voting, including:

  • When they logged onto the voting site and entered their PIN, a blank screen appeared with no option to choose a vote
  • The system showed a member voted, but no ballot was cast
  • The site froze while attempting to cast a ballot without a selection
  • Inoperative hyperlink to take them to the voting site

It gets even worse:

On the day voting closed, many Members joined the live stream to witness the outcome of the ratification vote. There was significant consternation relating to the unexplained time lag between the close of the vote and the time the representative from TrueBallot joined the Live Stream video. When TrueBallot arrived, there was further delay caused by an unplanned computer update on his computer. When the vote totals were revealed, some noticed a discrepancy between the total number of Yes and No votes and the total number of ballots cast.

In the voting system at the time, the TrueBallot representative shared his screen for the live stream video. In the address bar, there was information that permitted a Member to access the TrueBallot database, exposing every Member’s name, whether they voted or not, and their email address. In addition, upon access, ballots could be added and deleted. This was confirmation that the system was unencrypted and unsecured. The vendor admitted they could not verify if other attempts to access this website had occurred. TrueBallot notified every Member of this vulnerability to their system in an email blast on Tuesday, December 12, 2023.

What?!? So TrueBallot is in the business of conducting these kinds of elections, and is this incompetent? I hadn’t heard of this company before, but TrueBallot’s website doesn’t exactly instill much confidence — it looks like a website I’d expect from a funeral home in 2007.

As a result of all of this, union leadership isn’t certifying the results of the election, so an additional vote will take place. The union doesn’t believe that it will change the results, but it at least wants to make sure they’re accurate. The union is now pursuing legal action against TrueBallot.

I think conducting an additional vote is totally fair, though I’m not sure the union is necessarily coming across much more professionally, between turning off comments on Facebook, and seemingly not being able to invest in a tripod for recording a video, despite many millions of dollars in dues from members.

Bottom line

Southwest became the first major US airline since the start of the pandemic where the flight attendant union tentatively approved a new contract, though that isn’t materializing as hoped. Union members have voted against the new contract by a wide margin, though there are also some issues with the election, so there will be a re-vote.

I’m curious to see how this all turns out, because it will likely have implications for labor groups at other airlines.

What do you make of this new contract situation for Southwest flight attendants?

Conversations (29)
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  1. Steve Hartman Guest

    The union’s Facebook page was to answer questions factually, not garner discussion. There were 15 in-person forums with leadership all over the country, and a dozen live online zooms where members could ask questions and have their opinions heard. Some attended, many didn’t. People were far more interested in spreading patently false information about a contract they hadn’t read; or spreading information they “heard somewhere”.

    There are 100 FB pages where SW FA’s gossip,...

    The union’s Facebook page was to answer questions factually, not garner discussion. There were 15 in-person forums with leadership all over the country, and a dozen live online zooms where members could ask questions and have their opinions heard. Some attended, many didn’t. People were far more interested in spreading patently false information about a contract they hadn’t read; or spreading information they “heard somewhere”.

    There are 100 FB pages where SW FA’s gossip, spread misinformation, vent their dissatisfaction, and communicate in memes. The page you screenshotted was informational, not discussion.

    All that said, FA’s want more.

  2. Hardatwork Guest

    F/A must be paid to work! No pay for cleaning , boarding, lengthy ground time up to 4hours, babysitting pax on through flight , unable to get off A/C for food? Flight Attendants not having substantial longevity raises. More vacation weeks added for length of service. Needs changing !

  3. John Guest

    Let them re-vote. Sadly, hours before the announcement was made a text was be circulated. TWU Local 556 members should conduct a re-vote on the agreement that failed, not an amended version. Shady business to say the least.

    "I just heard there is going to be a revote. Something has gone wrong with the voting vendor. And Lyn has gone to the company and fixed a couple things she thinks will pass it. All...

    Let them re-vote. Sadly, hours before the announcement was made a text was be circulated. TWU Local 556 members should conduct a re-vote on the agreement that failed, not an amended version. Shady business to say the least.

    "I just heard there is going to be a revote. Something has gone wrong with the voting vendor. And Lyn has gone to the company and fixed a couple things she thinks will pass it. All very shady. There will be an email today. Lyn went to the company and made a deal. She then took it to the board and they approved it to come back to us. It'll be a paper ballot. They changed nothing to do with money. They changed the reserve rdv thing. That only really affected the Sr people. And the drt stuff."

    1. John Guest

      True Ballot sent out two emails to the members and this was from last night.

      "Dear ,

      In an age where misinformation and disinformation are prevalent, it is difficult to differentiate fact from hyperbole. We understand that there is certain misinformation being spread by other members that we will attempt to correct. We do not intend to email you again.

      1. The Contract ratification was secure and accurate. The numbers are what they were...

      True Ballot sent out two emails to the members and this was from last night.

      "Dear ,

      In an age where misinformation and disinformation are prevalent, it is difficult to differentiate fact from hyperbole. We understand that there is certain misinformation being spread by other members that we will attempt to correct. We do not intend to email you again.

      1. The Contract ratification was secure and accurate. The numbers are what they were as we presented. We have the data.

      2. The data intrusion that occurred was enabled at the RESULTS presentation, AFTER the election was completed. It did not and could not have affected the election. We believe know when and where this occurred (IP address)

      3. The data intrusion was able to see and copy your name, email address and whether or not you voted. (90+% of you did). It did not and could not reveal how you voted.

      Following the results presentation, we were made aware that someone had gained access to the results page through the URL shown at the results presentation, and voter list. They were able to copy that list. We were asked the specific question by the Board of Elections, whether or not a voter's vote could be determined from that that access. We told the BOE that the how someone voted could NOT be determined, and that names and emails addresses could be copied but not changed. The election was OVER.

      The following day, the BOE asked us to send an email to the membership. We agreed and sent drafts of yesterday's email, but we never heard back from them regarding their approval. After hearing from several of you, we sent yesterday's email without approval from the BOE.

      We NEVER spoke wth or otherwise had any communication With the Executive Board or anyone claiming to be a member of the Board. Any representation to the contrary is False.

      We have the data. We know who voted and when. We know how the results proceeded, and we know how they concluded.

      The voting pattern and ratio of Yes/No did not change throughout the process. The result is that the referendum was rejected by nearly 2 To 1.

      We immediately patched the revealed security hole so that the subject page (and similar pages) could not be accessed without going through a password Protected login. Had the Executive Board or the BOE requested, we would have and could have run the same referendum the next day, without any cost. They did not ask or suggest.

      We are now aware of the video by the Executive Board, which makes certain factual representations that are simply Not True. They impugn both our competence And integrity. We are not sure why chose the path they did, rather than have us to run it again.

      We provide and have provided a service to labor for nearly 3 decades. Our mission involves the empowerment of labor unions and the ability to effectively govern themselves. We have conducted on the order of 3,000 elections over nearly 29 years. Not every election has been without obstacles, but we have always done our best to conduct them and ourselves honestly and ethically. No election conducted by TrueBallot has been overturned for actions taken by TrueBallot. We have no interest in a fight and wish no harm to any union, including TWU 556.

      It is for the membership to make decisions regarding matters of contract and leadership. We simply provide the means.

      As an aside, I fly SWA regularly. The flight attendants are where the 'rubber meets the road'. I/we have profound respect for who you are and what you do.

      Thank You.

      TrueBallot, Inc.
      John L. Seibel, President"

  4. George Romey Guest

    The bottom line is that air fares are going to need to go up and if that dampens consumer demand (because business travel is never coming back to what it once was) there will be capacity cuts, and layoffs.

  5. Gary Guest

    Do you miss having a paper trail?

  6. Mrs. Anne Guest

    Flight attendants want a safe work environment that allows them to pay their bills with only one job. They would like to get a hotel room at the end of the night and be paid for the hours worked. It isn't rocket science. Instead of assuming the WN group is greedy, maybe consider why such a significant raise was NOT enough to convince over half of them to vote yes. What other factors are at...

    Flight attendants want a safe work environment that allows them to pay their bills with only one job. They would like to get a hotel room at the end of the night and be paid for the hours worked. It isn't rocket science. Instead of assuming the WN group is greedy, maybe consider why such a significant raise was NOT enough to convince over half of them to vote yes. What other factors are at play? The what is making them so miserable at work that even a 36% raise wasn't enough?

  7. S Boch Guest

    Take a new vote that works like it is suppose to. Flight attendants work hard and deserve a raise. If the pilots get raises ….so should the flight attendants. They are a team that work together and therefore should get a raise together

  8. Smokie Guest

    When will members learn.

    Union leaders are just like management.
    They lookout from themselves > union/company > you.

    Just like lawyers, as much as they say they represent you, they don't.
    They represent your proceeds not you.

  9. MICHAEL GAITAN Guest

    If the problem didn’t “affect the integrity or security of the election”, why the need for a re-vote? That appears to show that you are not fiscally sound stewards of our union dues.

  10. CoffeeTea orMe Guest

    $20/hour from the time you clock in to the time you leave the plane.
    Hotel+per diem
    Free flights/space available.

    Yes or no?

    No? No problem - takes 4-6 weeks to train new flight attendants. No HS diploma required.

    Can replace the entire lot of them in a few months.
    Done and Done.

  11. Brian W Guest

    I thought the pattern bargaining would be based on the salry/bennifits/profit sharing Delta FAs receive when their pay was revised after the pilots settled their contract.

    1. Tim Dunn Diamond

      AA has been very clear that it would match but not exceed DL's FA salary/benefit levels - which will still fall short because AA will almost certainly not be as profitable as DL which negatively impacts profit sharing.
      WN's proposal might have been a little richer on the surface but WN pays its crew members (cabin and cockpit) differently and has a different network and fleet so it's not likely there can be meaningful advantages for WN FAs.

  12. JDB Guest

    Yes interested to know exactly what they rejected it for.

    1. Oliver Guest

      There are many reasons, the ratification bonus didn’t come close to inflation, neither did the snap up raise. They changed the way sick bank accrued giving them less sick time. They made it so that seniority was useless except for bidding. They didn’t change anything regarding the policy that allows the company to kick them off the company health insurance after 4 month if they are out due to an on the job injury or...

      There are many reasons, the ratification bonus didn’t come close to inflation, neither did the snap up raise. They changed the way sick bank accrued giving them less sick time. They made it so that seniority was useless except for bidding. They didn’t change anything regarding the policy that allows the company to kick them off the company health insurance after 4 month if they are out due to an on the job injury or if they are on medical leave. They can still be terminated if they are out for an on the job injury for 4 years despite the fact that they (SW) uses a company that sends their employees back to work when they aren’t healed. They (SW and the union) said this would be fixed in this contract when the last one barely passed and it wasn’t. There is a lot more wrong with this contract….But the OJI/Medical Leave issue is a huge problem. No other carrier kicks them off their medical insurance nor do they terminate them!

    2. Just the Facts Guest

      You are not due a ratification bonus or a raise that meets or beats inflation. No business matches inflation when it gets as high as it got. Maybe the union shouldn’t have backed Joe Biden. They need to stop selling the inflation BS be cause too many buy it and now expect it.

    3. Truth Guest

      You are not due anything that matches or beats inflation when inflation is as high as it went. That is not how business works. Maybe TWU shouldn’t have backed Biden

  13. Exit Row Guest

    I am fairly certain this is not True Ballot’s first set of errors in overseeing a Union election. As we all know, it’s disappointing to hire any company only to have to do the job a second time. Anyhow, getting an agreement through the RLA is not easy and takes so much time for workers. Curious if certain hubs supported and larger hubs opposed. That would make sense as far as a disconnect, especially if your bargaining committee is from hubs that supported.

  14. Happystew Guest

    Most of that talk on this site is about raises...more money. However in reality our working conditions are deteriorating. Just an example is 18 hour duty days being proposed by some airlines! The list goes on from there. It's not all about money. One of the reasons most of us love this career, (despite its many challenges) is the work life balance. We don't want that taken away as we'll never get it back.

    1. Truth Guest

      Who is proposing an 18 hour duty day. That is against regulations.

  15. betterbub Diamond

    Is there any specific reason they don't like the contract?

    1. John Guest

      It was laden with concessions. A dangling carrot before the holidays with concession after concession. IF Lyn Montgomery truly knew what her members wanted she would have obtained a TA that would have been ratified. Now she's going the more corrupt route.

  16. Tim Dunn Diamond

    Somehow you managed to fail to note that Delta flight attendants got a raise, which while not as large as what the pilots got, added boarding pay which WN and the rest of the big 4 FA unions are trying to get for their members.
    DL knew exactly what it was doing by agreeing first to a pilot contract and then giving its non-union employees, including FAs, raises that for FAs include boarding pay...

    Somehow you managed to fail to note that Delta flight attendants got a raise, which while not as large as what the pilots got, added boarding pay which WN and the rest of the big 4 FA unions are trying to get for their members.
    DL knew exactly what it was doing by agreeing first to a pilot contract and then giving its non-union employees, including FAs, raises that for FAs include boarding pay which disproportionately benefits lower seniority workers and also counters the tendencies of unions to favor senior members in negotiations.

    AA and WN FA unions have both tried to get more than DL gave its FAs but there is no reason for AA, UA or WN to agree to significantly more - and it won't happen esp. when you factor in DL's profit sharing that will continue to lead the industry, in part because of DL's much higher non-transportation revenue - Skymiles/Amex and Delta Tech Ops plus lower fuel costs via the refinery.

    The TWU at WN is simply trying to save their own bacon. They will get parked by mediators if they reject the contract proposal. They tried to find a middle ground and got an agreement, something that AA and UA's FA unions have not been able to do but union members want more - even if they will never get it.

    There is no doubt that the vendor had holes in their system but they responded that the issues in presenting the votes were not related to the security of the voting process. It is impossible for anyone outside to know the truth.

    What is true is that WN FAs better figure this out; they will face months of no pay raises and retro can't fix what they will lose.

    In the meantime, DL's FAs are benefitting.

    And WN pilots are ready to get their own contract; the company tried to convince them to wait so the FAs couldn't copy what was offered to the FAs and now that concern is off the table.

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      We all know Ben was just trolling you with this post.

      As he is on every post on every airline.

      Just like you said!

    2. Tim Dunn Diamond

      I get that the article is focused on what unions have negotiated but no one who is objectively looking at the airline labor situation can't miss that Delta FAs have seen their pay raised post-pandemic, the only one of the big 4 that has done that. A few smaller airlines including Skywest have raised FA pay and/or added boarding pay.

      It isn't lost on Delta management that AA, WN and UA FAs all know who...

      I get that the article is focused on what unions have negotiated but no one who is objectively looking at the airline labor situation can't miss that Delta FAs have seen their pay raised post-pandemic, the only one of the big 4 that has done that. A few smaller airlines including Skywest have raised FA pay and/or added boarding pay.

      It isn't lost on Delta management that AA, WN and UA FAs all know who has received post-pandemic pay raises or that it was non-union DL that added boarding pay.

      Nobody's trolling anyone. Objectivity requires noting that

    3. AD Diamond

      @Tim Dunn, as someone who is responsible for IT security in my day job, I can assure you that if the URL that was visible on the management console that is shared during presentations allowed someone to get to the database without performing authentication, they have a LOT of security issues. Blocking authenticated URLs from unauthenticated users is one of the most basic security controls. I wouldn't trust these people with voting for my christmas...

      @Tim Dunn, as someone who is responsible for IT security in my day job, I can assure you that if the URL that was visible on the management console that is shared during presentations allowed someone to get to the database without performing authentication, they have a LOT of security issues. Blocking authenticated URLs from unauthenticated users is one of the most basic security controls. I wouldn't trust these people with voting for my christmas cookie decorating contest.

  17. Evan Guest

    Personally, I think the flight attendants at SWA and the other airlines need a reality check. I'm not arguing against giving them raises; however, flight attendants are not in the same position as pilots. Pilots negotiated contracts against a backdrop of high demand and low supply.

    Flight attendants are not in the same position. After six weeks of training (and passing the tests), one can become a flight attendant. In addition, news articles have pointed...

    Personally, I think the flight attendants at SWA and the other airlines need a reality check. I'm not arguing against giving them raises; however, flight attendants are not in the same position as pilots. Pilots negotiated contracts against a backdrop of high demand and low supply.

    Flight attendants are not in the same position. After six weeks of training (and passing the tests), one can become a flight attendant. In addition, news articles have pointed out that it is harder to he hired as flight attendants than getting into an ivy league school because of the number of applicants that apply to flight attendant positions when announced. Whether that's true or not, the point is the supply constraint for flight attendants does not exist as with pilots.

    Again, I am not saying flight attendants don't deserve raises...they do. But they need to realize that their bargaining position has its limits.

    1. betterbub Diamond

      Comparing Ivy League acceptance rates vs flight attendant acceptance rates is really dumb and sounds like a clickbaity news article headline. I don't doubt there is significant supply for flight attendants but that's a dumb way to express it

    2. David Diamond

      I mean, it's genius. Both sides can "agree" with that kinda BS comparison.

      Airlines can say "see? there's an oversupply of FAs so you all should be grateful you got a job at all rather than always demanding raises".

      FAs can say "See? We're the cream of the crop and deserve higher pay than Harvard graduates".

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Oliver Guest

There are many reasons, the ratification bonus didn’t come close to inflation, neither did the snap up raise. They changed the way sick bank accrued giving them less sick time. They made it so that seniority was useless except for bidding. They didn’t change anything regarding the policy that allows the company to kick them off the company health insurance after 4 month if they are out due to an on the job injury or if they are on medical leave. They can still be terminated if they are out for an on the job injury for 4 years despite the fact that they (SW) uses a company that sends their employees back to work when they aren’t healed. They (SW and the union) said this would be fixed in this contract when the last one barely passed and it wasn’t. There is a lot more wrong with this contract….But the OJI/Medical Leave issue is a huge problem. No other carrier kicks them off their medical insurance nor do they terminate them!

1
betterbub Diamond

Comparing Ivy League acceptance rates vs flight attendant acceptance rates is really dumb and sounds like a clickbaity news article headline. I don't doubt there is significant supply for flight attendants but that's a dumb way to express it

1
Tim Dunn Diamond

Somehow you managed to fail to note that Delta flight attendants got a raise, which while not as large as what the pilots got, added boarding pay which WN and the rest of the big 4 FA unions are trying to get for their members. DL knew exactly what it was doing by agreeing first to a pilot contract and then giving its non-union employees, including FAs, raises that for FAs include boarding pay which disproportionately benefits lower seniority workers and also counters the tendencies of unions to favor senior members in negotiations. AA and WN FA unions have both tried to get more than DL gave its FAs but there is no reason for AA, UA or WN to agree to significantly more - and it won't happen esp. when you factor in DL's profit sharing that will continue to lead the industry, in part because of DL's much higher non-transportation revenue - Skymiles/Amex and Delta Tech Ops plus lower fuel costs via the refinery. The TWU at WN is simply trying to save their own bacon. They will get parked by mediators if they reject the contract proposal. They tried to find a middle ground and got an agreement, something that AA and UA's FA unions have not been able to do but union members want more - even if they will never get it. There is no doubt that the vendor had holes in their system but they responded that the issues in presenting the votes were not related to the security of the voting process. It is impossible for anyone outside to know the truth. What is true is that WN FAs better figure this out; they will face months of no pay raises and retro can't fix what they will lose. In the meantime, DL's FAs are benefitting. And WN pilots are ready to get their own contract; the company tried to convince them to wait so the FAs couldn't copy what was offered to the FAs and now that concern is off the table.

1
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