Southwest Airlines pilots voted to authorize a potential strike, adding a new challenge to an already difficult year for the carrier.
The union is hoping the vote increases pressure in the years-long contract negotiations with the company, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The results were released by the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association after votes came in quicker than expected, with 99% voting to authorize a potential strike. The airline said the vote will not impact scheduled operations.
Federal law makes it difficult for airline unions to go on strike, so even with the vote, it doesn’t mean pilots are likely to walk out in the near future.
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Southwest is among three major airlines in the midst of negotiating new labor deals.
Pilots’ unions reportedly have more leverage to push for increased pay and changes in scheduling practices, following the shortage of pilots industry-wide that came about as carriers encouraged retirement during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Negotiations between Southwest and its pilots have been going on for over three years, with pilots pushing for a major overhaul of the company’s scheduling practices.
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The airline suffered major flight disruptions at the end of last year as weather-related cancellations led to an operational meltdown.
“Our negotiating team continues to bargain in good faith and work toward reaching a new agreement to reward our pilots,” said Adam Carlisle, Southwest’s vice president of labor relations.
Pilots at American Airlines approved a strike vote earlier this month, but the airline says the two sides are making progress on a deal.
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Delta Air Lines pilots authorized a strike last year before reaching a deal that included raises of at least 34% over a four-year term.
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