Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Reject Tentative Contract

Flight attendants at Southwest Airlines have rejected a proposed contract with the carrier. The proposal was defeated by 64% of voting members, the Transport Workers Union Local 556 said Friday in an Instagram post.

The rejection will not affect Southwest’s operations. The negotiations are being overseen by the National Mediation Board, which will determine the next steps in the talks.

“We’ve heard you,” TWU Local 556 President Lyn Montgomery said in a video message to members. “We’ve heard that we must stand united, even further, even stronger to deliver the results that are required by TWU Local 556 members.” The union represents 15,000 attendants at Dallas-based Southwest.

The proposal would have provided Southwest attendants a 20% pay raise in January 2024 and 3% annual increases for the following four years, according to the union’s social media accounts. The agreement also would have offered new paid maternity and parental leave time, along with double time pay for working on Memorial Day and July 4.

It was not immediately clear what aspects of the contract were unsuitable to flight attendants, and Montgomery did not return a call seeking comment. The union said 95% of eligible attendants had participated in the vote.

The tentative agreement did not include new pay for so-called boarding time, the period when passengers get on a plane. Boarding time, which has been largely uncompensated in the past, has recently emerged as a key issue in negotiations between the unions and carriers including American, Alaska and United.

All three of those carriers are negotiating with their unions for new deals in 2024. Delta Air Lines, which is trying to fend off a unionization effort among its flight attendants, began paying attendants for boarding periods in mid-2022.

The union will take a “breather” over the holidays and regroup in early 2024, Montgomery said in the video, noting that the mediation board “has no dates for us at this time” to continue the negotiations. The TWU will reach out to mediators in January to learn the next steps in the process.

“We are disappointed the industry-leading agreement reached between the negotiating committees was not ratified,” Southwest said Friday in a statement from Adam Carlisle, vice president of labor relations. Southwest said it will await “next steps” from the NMB and union.

The vote was the second time this year that the union had rejected a company proposal. Over the summer, the union’s executive board declined to send a previous tentative agreement to the carrier’s members for a vote.

Southwest is also trying to reach a new contract with its pilots’ union.

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