Southwest workers demand contracts

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – Southwest workers are demanding the airline finally bring back their contacts. They organized a protest outside baggage claim at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’re just trying to remind the company that we are important, we do love our jobs, and we do want our contracts,” said a worker.

“I haven’t gotten a raise since November 2011,” said Southwest ramp agent Richard Perry.

“For most of us this isn’t a job, it’s a career. We love our job, we love working for Southwest, we love the company, so for it to be this long without a contract it just makes us wonder where our company’s loyalties lie,” said Sheila Wright an operations agent.

They said no contract has meant no raises for 40 percent of TWU 555, union employees like Perry. He’s worked with the company for 16 years.

“It’s not the same company I started with. Herb and Colleen used to put us first and in turn we used to take care of our customers. Now we’re more of a liability than an asset,” said Perry.

They also said Southwest has more flights and bigger planes creating more work, yet they haven’t been compensated.

“We have bigger airplanes now. The 800 series that hold 175 passengers. Even our 3’s and 7’s used to hold 137 passengers and now hold 143 so we’re definitely working harder, more bags, more cargo,” said Perry.

Tim Keho retired a year ago. He wanted to be at the protest to show support for his former coworkers.

“They’re being underpaid right now. Everything is going up, cost of living, insurance and everything and there hasn’t been a raise,”said Keho.

Workers are just hoping their protest Tuesday will have an impact on the company.

“We’re just trying to remind the company that we are important, we do love our jobs, and we do want our contracts,” said Wright.

Southwest released a statement saying in part that it shares the union’s sense of urgency to secure a fair agreement. Adding the TWU 555 employees at Southwest have the industry’s highest pay rates. And the company has increased staffing across the system and done so at a higher rate than bags handled.

Buffalo is one of 16 cities where protests by Southwest workers are happening Tuesday.

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