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Southwest pilots union vote on potential strike underway

Southwest airlines jets are stored at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.
Matt York
Southwest airlines jets are stored at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix.

Southwest Airlines pilots have until the end of the month to vote on a potential strike.

The strike voting period opened Monday at noon. The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association said they're still disagreeing with management on salary, benefits, retirement and other contract terms after years at the negotiating table.

SWAPA President Casey Murray wrote in a statement the company's management has shown "no willingness" to address pilots' concerns related to scheduling and technology issues.

“The decision to authorize a strike is not one we have taken lightly, but given the lack of accountability and dearth of leadership exhibited by our current executives, we felt that this was a last resort to try to force them to face the issues plaguing our passengers, our frontline employees, and our pilots,” Murray wrote in a statement.

The pilot union announced the strike vote back in January after the airline's widespread flight cancellations and delays during the holiday travel season. Pilots said they were disappointed in how management handled the meltdown, citing outdated technology systems that hindered their ability to serve customers. That encouraged them to take action.

The first day of voting came as the American Airlines pilots union finalized its own strike authorization vote. The Allied Pilots Association on Monday said 96% of its members participated in the vote, almost all of whom voted to authorize a strike.

Southwest and American pilots would still have to bring their disputes before the National Mediation Board before a strike ever happens.

Southwest Airlines released a statement Monday calling the action a common "contract negotiating tactic” and assured customers the strike vote wouldn't affect normal operations.

"SWAPA's authorization vote will not affect Southwest's operation or our ability to take care of our Customers," wrote Adam Carlisle, vice president of labor relations at Southwest. "Our negotiations continue, with talks resuming this week, and we'll keep working with the assistance of the National Mediation Board to reach an agreement that rewards our Pilots and places them competitively in the industry."

Got a tip? Email Toluwani Osibamowo at tosibamowo@kera.org. You can follow Toluwani on Twitter @tosibamowo.

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Toluwani Osibamowo