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Southwest Airlines pilots' union asks feds to mediate in labor dispute

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — The union that represents pilots employed by Southwest Airlines is asking the federal government for help with contract negotiations.

The Southwest Airlines Pilots' Association (SWAPA) filed for mediation with the National Mediation Board on Wednesday, taking the second step in the Railway Labor Act's negotiation process.

The union said that the slow pace of negotiations prompted the move. SWAPA and Southwest Airlines have been working on a contract for over two years now, and little progress has been made.

SWAPA said that the airline has open contracts with 75% of its organized workers despite record earnings. They said they hope Southwest secures a contract with pilots soon to combat rising fatigue, operational failures, and the growing pilot shortage.

Adam Carlisle, Southwest's VP for Labor Relations, said in a statement:

"Southwest is eager to continue moving negotiations forward with the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association so we can reward our Pilots and continue to attract great People. As the negotiation process nears its third year, including a 13-monthslong pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic, mediation will be beneficial to guide and facilitate our discussions. We look forward to working with the National Mediation Board and SWAPA on the next steps in the process."

The NMB can keep the airline and the union in negotiations indefinitely as long as there is a reasonable possibility of a resolution.

If mediations fail, the National Labor Board can ask the parties to submit to binding arbitration. However, if either the union or the airline reject arbitration, things must be kept as-is for a 30 day cool-off period.

During that time, the President of the United States can order a review by a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB), which investigates the situation and can offer nonbinding recommendations to both parties, the President, and Congress.

There is then yet another 30 day cool-off period before employers or unions may engage in lockouts or strikes, respectively. During and after this time, Congress or the President can intervene and forcibly end the dispute.

This article originally appeared on CBS

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