Calling it “a joke,” baggage handlers will protest Southwest’s “Airline of the Year” award Wednesday at 5:30p at the Omni Shoreham. “Air Transport World says ‘excellent labor relations’ is one of the criteria for receiving this award,” said Greg Puriski, a member of TWU 555 and a Southwest baggage handler who plans to be at the Washington protest. “They never asked us, that’s for sure. If they want to have better labor relations, let’s settle the contract.” Local 555, which represents more than 10,000 ground crew workers at Southwest Airlines, has been in negotiations with Southwest for a new contract since July 2011...
photo courtesy Kelly Wilkinson/The Star
with little progress during the past three-and-a-half years and the union reports that most Southwest ground workers have not received a pay raise in the past four-and-a-half years. “If you’re giving an award to an airline which acts like a bully to its workers, squeezing workers while earning billions in profits – that has to be a joke, right?” said Local 555 president Charles Cerf. Since 2011, Southwest has earned over $3 billion in net income, including a record profit of $1.14 billion in 2014, following the airline’s merger with AirTran. The airline also is continuing to benefit from a steep drop in the price of jet fuel. “It’s absurd that anybody would honor Southwest after the way it treats employees,” said Puriski. “Stagnating pay and the decline of the middle class are huge problems in this country. Southwest is a profitable company that has a chance to be part of the solution. Instead, they’re making the problem worse.”
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