Southwest Airlines Strikes Deal with 19,000 Ground Workers for New Contract

Aug. 16, 2023
After two years of negotiations, Transport Workers Union Local 555, which represents the 19,000 workers in ramp, operations, provisioning and freight at Southwest, reached an agreement on Aug. 9 with the Dallas-based carrier.

Southwest Airlines and the union representing its ground workers have reached a tentative agreement, proposing raises wages and benefit improvements.

After two years of negotiations, Transport Workers Union Local 555, which represents the 19,000 workers in ramp, operations, provisioning and freight at Southwest, reached an agreement on Aug. 9 with the Dallas-based carrier. If ratified, the contract would bring on new wages, up to 12 weeks of parental leave and more. Union members will vote beginning Sept. 8 to Sept. 20.

“Planes don’t take off without us,” said Randy Barnes, president of TWU Local 555 in a release. “While working in extreme weather, and face-to-face with customers, our members load and unload luggage, supply snacks and beverages to the aircraft, and accept and ship freight. They are the last people passengers see when they board planes and the first people they see when they arrive at their destination.”

Adam Carlisle, vice president of labor relations at Southwest, said ground workers serve a valuable role in customer experience.

The union representing ground workers was critical of Southwest during operational troubles last summer, saying that poor planning and poor treatment of workers were behind some problems with cancellations and delays. The union again went after the company after the December meltdown when Southwest canceled more than 17,000 flights during the holidays, again blaming the carrier for failing to invest in the tools needed to keep planes running on time.

“I’m pleased with the work by both parties to reach a tentative agreement that would offer employees well-deserved compensation increases and give Southwest needed efficiencies to keep us competitive,” Carlisle said in a statement.

Southwest is still in contract negotiations with its flight attendants and pilots. In July, the carrier reached an agreement with its mechanics to extend their contract.

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