Southwest pilots union calls for strike authorization vote

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FILE – A woman walks through unclaimed bags at Southwest Airlines baggage claim at Salt Lake City International Airport Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Salt Lake City. With its flights now running on a roughly normal schedule, Southwest Airlines is turning its attention to luring back customers and repairing damage to a reputation for service after canceling 15,000 flights around Christmas. The disruptions started with a winter storm and snowballed when Southwest’s ancient crew-scheduling technology failed. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

(NewsNation) — Southwest Airlines’ pilots union is calling for a strike authorization vote, weeks after thousands of passengers were left stranded across the United States during Christmas because of a tech meltdown.

“It is not a decision we have taken lightly, but given the trajectory of our current leadership group, we have little faith in the stability and future of our airline,” Capt. Casey Murray, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association (SWAPA), said in a statement. SWAPA represents more than 10,000 pilots.

The strike authorization vote will take place beginning May 1, Reuters reports. SWAPA said votes will then be counted at the end of the month.

Tom Nekouei, vice president of SWAPA, said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America” that the union presented a proposal to the company exactly three years ago this month. Out of a 28-section contract, only seven sections have been agreed to.

“What’s important to pilots is retirement compensation, disability, etc,” he said.

The union, Nekouei said, also has a proposal that would have alleviated crew scheduling problems that coincided with the Christmas chaos at Southwest

“The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association’s call for an authorization vote does not affect Southwest’s operation or our ability to take care of our customers,” Southwest said in a statement to Forbessaying that the company is working on “reaching an agreement that rewards our Pilots and places them competitively in the industry.”

“The union’s potential vote does not hinder our ongoing efforts at the negotiating table,” the statement added. “We are scheduled to resume mediation on January 24.”

Reuters contributed to this story.

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