What Led Us To A Deal With Southwest Airlines, Nearly 7 Years Later

A brief history of transportation labor relations, and how it relates to our deal

On Saturday March 16, AMFA (Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association) and Southwest Airlines came to an Agreement in Principle on a new contract. We now have that Tentative Agreement out for our members to vote on.

So how did we reach this point? Here is some background on the process in general, and our process in particular:

To understand the labor negotiations process, it’s best to go back to the introduction of the Railway Labor Act.

The RLA has three primary purposes

Our negotiation process with Southwest Airlines, which took more than 6 years, is a product of the 83-year-old relic called the Railway Labor Act (RLA).

Under the RLA, a collective bargaining agreement does not expire — it becomes amendable and remains in force until modified by management pursuant to contractual authority, by agreement of the parties, or by unilateral implementation during a period of lawful self-help.

The collective bargaining process begins when parties exchange notices indicating a desire to change wages, hours and working conditions. Thereafter, the RLA imposes on the parties the duty to exert every reasonable effort to reach agreement.

This also serves to ultimately eliminate the threat of a strike by workers.

Here’s the bottom line — the collective bargaining process has not changed in more than 80 years. The recent situation with AMFA and Southwest Airlines shows the RLA gives airlines an incentive and means to extend negotiations with no recourse, no accountability and no negative consequences for deliberately dragging out or delaying collective bargaining. This tactic means management feels no urgency to come to a new agreement.

The RLA allows a company to show they are doing enough to “exert every reasonable effort to reach an agreement” in the collective bargaining process. And here we are, 6 1/2 years later.

By using the RLA as a means to delay, Southwest bought time to allow its competitors in the industry to catch up in wages and benefits, to implement an industry-competitive wage.

We are glad to be nearing the end of this long negotiation process. Until the process is changed, labor in the airline industry remains in a disadvantaged position versus management.

But our patience and determination was crucial to earning the proper deal our members deserve, and we believe we are nearing that as we move toward a vote on the Tentative Agreement.

We are independent Aircraft Maintenance Technicians committed to the highest safety standards. Safety in the Air Begins with Quality Maintenance on the Ground.

We are independent Aircraft Maintenance Technicians committed to the highest safety standards. Safety in the Air Begins with Quality Maintenance on the Ground.