Southwest pilots file lawsuit…

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On Oct. 8, 2021, Southwest Airlines Pilots Association (SWAPA) filed a motion for temporary and preliminary injunctive relief in its ongoing lawsuit with Southwest Airlines, Co., initially filed on Aug. 30, 2021. The original complaint asserts the airlines are in violation of the Railway Labor Act (RLA), among other things, Sec. 6, which requires the parties to maintain “status quo” until a new agreement is reached. The lawsuit maintains that the carrier can not alter pay rates, rules, and working conditions until a new agreement is reached. Friday’s filing, seeking an immediate hearing, declares:

“Most recently, on Oct. 4, 2021, Southwest Airlines unilaterally rolled out a new and non-negotiated COVID vaccine mandate for all employees, including SWAPA. The new vaccine mandate unlawfully imposes new conditions of employment, and the new policy threatens termination of any pilot not fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, 2021. Southwest Airlines’ additional new and unilateral modifications of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement is in clear violation of the RLA.”

The original Aug. 30 complaint, which was amended on Oct. 6, 2021, emphasizes that the two parties—SWAPA and Southwest Airlines—currently have a “major dispute” within the meaning of the RLA and related case law and talks to improve the relevant collective bargaining agreement (CBA). More specifically, the claim states that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Southwest Airlines issued and implemented an “Infectious Disease Control Policy” that unquestionably altered Pilots’ working conditions, rules, and pay rates. 

The initial claim explains the CBA (which covered the period from Sept. 1, 2012, through Aug. 31, 2020) instructs that either party may give written notice of its desire to modify the Agreement at least sixty days before Mar. 1 or each year beginning Mar. 1, 2020. Following those guidelines, SWAPA served its notice to Southwest Airlines on Nov. 1, 2019, and the parties met on Jan. 9, 2020, to begin immediate negotiations.

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