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May 18, 2011

Southwest dispatchers union pickets carrier's shareholder meeting

2011-05-18_09-43-38_257 It was an unusual sight outside of Southwest Airlines' headquarters during the Dallas-based carrier's annual shareholder meeting.

There were dozens of union members picketing the carrier.

As airline reporters, we're used to seeing union members picket outside of American Airlines' parent company shareholder meeting. In fact, both the flight attendants and mechanics and ground crew folks did just that in Los Angeles today.

But we're not used to seeing them at Southwest, which has signed several contracts in the past year with different union groups.

On Wednesday, Transport Workers Union Local 550, which represents 184 dispatchers at the carrier, decided to hold an informational picket at the two entrances into Southwest headquarters, to remind executives, shareholders and board members that they do not have a new contract yet.

"We are all long term employees of this company and we do love this company and we’re very happy to see it prosper," said TWU Local 550 president Mike Connor. "We just want to share in that success."

The dispatchers had a 12-year contract that became amendable in November 2009. The negotiations are currently in federal mediation with meetings scheduled for next week.

Contract issues include compensation and work rules, although Connor declined to discuss specific contract proposals from either the union or the company.

Southwest issued a statement that it is committed to "rewarding industry leading pay and benefits to our hard working dispatchers."

"We currently have an offer on the table that will put Southwest Dispatchers' salaries and benefits significantly higher than the industry average of other dispatchers in the commercial airline industry," the statement said.

-Andrea Ahles

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Comments

Scotty

Guess it's not just AA then.

What I'll never understand is how these airline workers can be so disgruntled when they have JOBS. Might not be the best paying job in the world, but it's better than unemployment.

tomslick

Never understand why jackwagons like Scotty can't understand the basic right to bring to managements attention that you should settle with your own employees before you buy what used to be Valujet. They can reward the CEO's with stock, and they should reward the rank and file as well. I don't think your unemployment comment holds water, none of these people are greedy, just want a contract settled,

TiredOfPanderinANDREA

Scotty, have you ever heard any AA employee say "We are all long term employees of this company and we do love this company and we’re very happy to see it prosper. We just want to share in that success."??

Scotty

No, I haven't heard that. All I read on here and on other blogs is straight hate talk, wishing AA to fail and blaming everything on their CEO. It is a broken record.

AA is far from perfect, but also far from the evil monster some of you portray it as.

The Fly On The Wall

As I understand it, in the 12 years since the dispatchers' last conract (1997), other employee groups have gone through multiple, shorter contract lifespans, all of which have given their respective groups cummulative raises ranging from 50%-70%. It appears that the dispatchers are only trying to "catch up" with everyone else, and one certainly can't blame them for that. Their dispatchers are the most productive in the airline indusry, by far.

That poses a problem for Southwest, since they are no doubt loathe to grant that "high" of a percentage raise for fear that other unions will cite that high percentage figure the next time their own contracts are up for renewal.

This is not a new problem for Southwest--several years ago when their pilots got large raises, then president Jim Parker penned a letter to ALL employees explaining the unique circumstances of the pilots' situation, i.e. other groups shouldn't expect the same percentages in their future negotiations.

Current Southwest management could easily write a similar letter today with respect to their dispatchers, but they'd much rather risk offending a couple of hundred dispatchers versus a few thousand pilots and flight attendants. Manegement's reasoning also seems to be predicated on the erroneous notion that their dispatchers are mere clerical help, and not the airline's "Mission Control" folks who keep things running safely and efficiently.

It'll be interesting to see how all this plays out, eventually...

N5CTE

Not going to feel sorry for people make $80,000/yr, often more, and working fewer hours than most other work groups. Quit complaining about management jobs and salaries, you can apply for those jobs like anyone else. But you want a (8 hours and go home) job and hiding behind the union skirt when you make a mistake. Why go for a job where you are expected to stand on their own to feet.

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