'It’s almost like they want to continue this war': Southwest, mechanics discord continues
Posted On: Aug 30, 2019
After it seemed years of contentious relations between Southwest Airlines and its mechanics finally ended this spring, discontent is again growing between the two sides.
Earlier this month, Southwest Airlines Co. (NYSE: LUV) and the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association were unable to come to an agreement to end multiple outstanding lawsuits the two sides have against one another.
With mediation failing to produce a resolution, the lawsuits are scheduled to come out of stay Sept. 1, AMFA said in a memo to members.
"It’s almost like they want to continue this war that’s been going on," Bret Oestreich, national director of AMFA, said in an interview.
Mechanics in AMFA voted to ratify a new contract in May that gave them 20-percent raises and a $160 million ratification bonus. The agreement brought to an end more than six and a half years of negotiations.
But the issues of the outstanding lawsuits were not resolved. Both sides sued each other in 2017, and Southwest sued AMFA again this spring accusing a group of mechanics of deliberately trying to impact operations.
Resolving the lawsuits as part of contract discussions was brought up during negotiations, Oestreich said, but ultimately the two sides couldn't reach an agreement.
Oestreich said AMFA would be willing to dismiss all outstanding lawsuits without money changing hands, but during a mediation session earlier this month Southwest wanted things that he considered "nonstarters."
"The nonstarters are similar to the company getting everything that they are asking for in court: the permanent injunction and also tens of millions of dollars in damages," Oestreich said.
Southwest spokesperson Brandy King said the airline will not comment on pending litigation, but said the company's focus is on "prohibiting these types of Customer disruptions from happening in the future," referencing the alleged job action Southwest mechanics took earlier this spring.
A similar situation is occurring over in Fort Worth. American Airlines Group Inc. (Nasdaq: AAL) told a federal judge in May mechanics were engaged in a work slowdown that is still forcing American to cancel thousands of flights. The judge ruled in favor of American, and the carrier is now seeking financial damages from its mechanics unions.
American and the unions are still without a deal. Their last contract became amendable December 2015. Before Southwest and AMFA agreed to their deal in May, their last contract became amendable August 2012.
After six and a half years of contract negotiations, Oestreich said the ongoing litigation is affecting employee morale and AMFA does not want to go to court.
"Southwest always likes to have this facade of having the 'Love Culture' and that they treat their employees well," Oestreich said. "This is in direct contradiction to treating their employees with respect."