Southwest ground workers call out unreasonable demands amid meltdown

Union president says many members were working more than 16 hours a day in sub-zero temperatures.

Melanie Woodrow Image
Thursday, December 29, 2022
Southwest ground workers call out unreasonable demands amid meltdown
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Southwest Airlines ground workers say the airline made unreasonable demands on them during the holiday travel meltdown.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Southwest Airlines ground workers say the airline made unreasonable demands on them during the meltdown. On Wednesday, the president of their union spoke with members of Congress.

As Southwest Airlines works to recover from what many are calling a meltdown, its employees are speaking out about longs shifts and extreme working conditions.

"We work out in the elements - when the weather started happening we started dealing with it, we started having issues," said Randy Barnes, President of TWU Local 555 representing ground workers at Southwest Airlines.

He says his members were battling sub-zero temperatures, driving winds and ice storms with many working 16 to 18-hour days.

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"We're performing one of the most dangerous jobs out of any industry and that needs to be recognized," said Barnes.

Barnes says he pushed Southwest to cycle employees in and out of the cold to prevent frostbite and to compensate them with premium pay.

Requests that were ultimately honored but he says not soon enough.

"It would have been better if it had been done from the onset," said Barnes.

With better planning, Barnes says the meltdown could have been lessened or averted.

VIDEO: Southwest captain explains why airline had widespread cancellation of scheduled flights across US

"All it took is one thing to tip the apple cart," he continued.

Southwest Airline's CEO Bob Jordan has said this to employees, "I'm apologizing to them daily and they'll be hearing more about our specific plans to ensure the challenges that they faced the past few days will not be part of our future."

"He said all the right things that needed to be said but I'm sure that a lot of people would have rathered it been a lot sooner," said Barnes.

Barnes shared his concerns on a call with members of Congress on Wednesday.

Congressman Mark DeSaulnier who is on the transportation committee and aviation sub-committee, says he was not on that call but is working with the administration.

VIDEO: What are your rights if your flight is delayed?

"What happened is completely unacceptable," said DeSaulnier.

"There's a lot of regulatory oversight to hold people accountable. This should not have happened," he continued.

Despite what did happen, Barnes says he believes Southwest Airlines will bounce back.

"We're going to get through this and when we do I encourage everybody to return to come back," said Barnes.

Southwest has opened a self-service tool to help travelers impacted by their travel disruptions. If your flight has been significantly delayed or canceled, visit Southwest Airlines' website here to request a refund and other services you are entitled to.

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