Published 24 Feb, 2015
For Immediate Release
February 24, 2015
Jamie Horwitz, 202.549.4921, firstname.lastname@example.org or
Amy Shenker, 301-412-2616, email@example.com
Advisory for Wed., Feb. 25th in Washington, DC
Southwest Baggage Handlers to Protest as Airline Receives “Airline of the Year” Award
Employees Baffled by Honor for Airline with Increasingly Hostile Labor Relations
WASHINGTON – Workers who handle baggage at Southwest Airlines, members of TWU Local 555, will protest at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC this coming Wednesday, February 25th when Southwest Airlines receives the “Airline of the Year” award from Air Transport World magazine.
Who: More than 100 ground workers employed at Southwest Airlines
What: Protest when Southwest receives “Airline of the Year” award
When: Wed., Feb. 25, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm
Where: Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2500 Calvert St. NW, Washington, DC 20008
“When we heard a magazine was giving Southwest ‘Airline of the Year’ award, we figured it must be The Onion,” said Charles Cerf, president of TWU Local 555, referring to the satirical publication which entertains readers with fake headlines. “Because if you’re giving an award to an airline which acts like a bully to its workers, squeezing workers while earning billions in profits – that has to be a joke, right?”
“Air Transport World says ‘excellent labor relations’ is one of the criteria for receiving this award,” said Greg Puriski, a member of TWU 555 and a Southwest baggage handler who plans to be at the Washington protest. “They never asked us, that’s for sure. If they want to have better labor relations, let’s settle the contract.”
Despite difficult workloads due to handling larger aircraft and higher health care costs, most Southwest ground workers have not received a pay raise in the past four-and-a-half years. TWU Local 555 has been in negotiations with Southwest for a new contract since July 2011, with little progress during the past three-and-a-half years.
Since 2011, Southwest has earned over $3 billion in net income, including a record profit of $1.14 billion in 2014, following the airline’s merger with AirTran. The airline also is continuing to benefit from a steep drop in the price of jet fuel.
Breaking from the Southwest tradition of rewarding employees as important stakeholders in the company, current management has held down wages despite healthy profits. While most baggage handlers have seen their wages frozen, Southwest imposes higher health care costs on its employees each year, resulting in a loss of take home pay.
“It’s absurd that anybody would honor Southwest after the way it treats employees,” said Puriski. “Stagnating pay and the decline of the middle class are huge problems in this country. Southwest is a profitable company that has a chance to be part of the solution. Instead, they’re making the problem worse.”
“We want everyone attending this high-profile event to know that Southwest can do better – and must do better – to succeed in today’s competitive travel industry,” added Cerf.
TWU Local 555 is a local union of the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), representing more than 10,000 ground crew workers at Southwest Airlines.