Southwest pilots authorize strike in sign of frustration with negotiations

By Mary Schlangenstein | Bloomberg

Southwest Airlines pilots voted nearly unanimously to authorize a strike, a sign of frustration over what they view as a lack of progress in contract negotiations.

Leaders of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association called an early end to voting after 98% of pilots at the Dallas-based carrier cast ballots, with 99% of those voting in favor. The airline has more than 10,000 aviators.

SEE MORE: United Airlines pilots picket Friday over ‘antiquated’ scheduling system

While the vote doesn’t mean pilots will strike immediately, it gives union leaders approval to call for a walkout if one is authorized by the National Mediation Board. That can only occur after a multi-phase process outlined in the Railway Labor Act, which governs airline labor relations.

“This is a historic day, not only for our pilots but for Southwest Airlines,” Casey Murray, union president, said in a statement. “The lack of leadership and the unwillingness to address the failures of our organization have led us to this point.”

The airline said in a separate statement that negotiations are continuing and it is not deterred by the union’s vote. The latest development will have no impact on Southwest’s scheduled operations.

“Our negotiating team continues to bargain in good faith and work toward reaching a new agreement to reward our pilots,” Adam Carlisle, the company’s vice president of labor relations, said in the statement.

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