How Did Southwest Airlines and Its Mechanics Strike Such a Sweet Deal? Pressure From All Sides

Never let a crisis go to waste.That idea, touted by some politicians, helps explain how the leaders of Southwest Airlines and its mechanics union may have finally broken through on a new contract.In about one month’s time, there were scores of flight delays and cancellations at Southwest, lawsuits by both sides, and warnings from federal regulators about protecting safety. Then a Boeing 737 Max crashed in Africa and the aircraft was grounded worldwide, affecting 34 planes in Southwest's fleet.All that was swirling around negotiators when they met in mid-March.“There was a lot of pressure — not just on the union, on both sides,” said Bret Oestreich, national director of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. “We had a feeling we had to get a deal done.”Mechanics had been working without a new contract for over six years and frustrations had been building. In mid-February, soon after a mediation session failed, mechanics started flagging more safety violations and pulling planes out of service.Hundreds of Southwest passengers were stranded by delays and cancellations. Southwest declared an “operational emergency” that required mechanics to show up for work as scheduled. CBS News and other outlets reported on growing safety concerns, and the union posted a video about protections for whistleblowers.  Continue reading...

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