The Transport Workers Union Local 555 has been in talks with Southwest since July 2011 but the two sides have been unable to reach a deal as the Dallas-based airline has proposed outsourcing jobs, increasing part-time workers and reducing medical benefits.
"We simply can’t understand why management would compromise our tradition of excellence by making demands at the bargaining table to outsource our work, cut into our sick days, and make it harder for our members to be on the job," said TWU Local 555 president Charles Cerf in a statement. "If we’re not there, who is going to provide our passengers with the quality of service they have come to expect at Southwest?"
Local 555 represents 9,400 ground crew workers at Southwest. Both parties filed for federal mediation last fall as contract talks stalled between union and company negotiators.
The picketing at Dallas Love Field was part of the union's national campaign to raise awareness about its contract talks. The union also picketed at 15 other airports across the U.S.
UPDATE: Southwest issued this statement on Thursday afternoon.
"Southwest Airlines is aware that some of our Ramp and Operations Employees are participating in informational picketing—this is often times part of the negotiating process. We have always supported, and will continue to support, our Employees’ right to express themselves.
"Southwest will continue to actively participate in negotiations as we make every effort to reach agreements with our unions that are rewarding, flexible, and secure; ones that provide wage and benefit levels that are fair to Employees, allow Southwest to be competitive, and ensure our long-term success."