Unionized flight attendants for Southwest Airlines, one of the nation’s largest air carriers, voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to authorize a strike following years of failed contract negotiations. The announcement comes the day after Southwest pilots ratified a new contract.
According to Transport Workers Union of America Local 556, the union that represents the Southwest flight attendants, 98% of workers voted in favor of the strike, which “sends a strong message of solidarity to “Southwest Airlines Management.”
Southwest is Long Beach Airport’s leading carrier, holding 50 — or 86% — of the 58 daily flight slots.
“Southwest Airlines has stated that the authorization vote will not affect their operations,” LGB spokesperson Kate Kuykendall said in an email Tuesday, referring further questions to the airline.
The vote does not mean a strike will take place but the union said it’s in “strike prep mode” and that it will ramp up member town halls, informational picketing, awareness campaigns and social media drives in the coming months.
Local 556 members are expected to join in a worldwide flight attendant day of action on Feb. 13, according to the website. More than two-thirds of U.S. flight attendants are in contract negotiations, according to the Associations of Flight Attendants-CWA, which announced the day of action earlier this month.
The associations said it expects 100,000 flight attendants at more than 30 airports to take part in the worldwide picket line next month.
“We have earned long-term security and benefits. We need flexibility and control of our lives,” AFA said in the announcement. “Legacy sexism that traditionally devalued our jobs must be stamped out and replaced with the true value of our work.”
Southwest, for its part, “will work on next steps to continue mediation and reach another agreement,” spokesperson Chris Mainz said in an emailed statement Tuesday. He stressed that any strike must have to be approved by federal mediators.
The National Mediation Board has not scheduled the next negotiation session between the airline and the union, Mainz added.
Tuesday’s vote comes nearly seven weeks after Local 556 voted down a contract offer 64% to 36% in early December. At the time, local President Lyn Montgomery said the vote followed five years of negotiations, during which flight crews did not receive pay raises, according to the Associated Press.
Southwest already narrowly escaped what would have been a devastating strike by its pilots, which authorized a strike in May of last year amid contentious contract negotiations. Twice the union asked federal mediators for permission to begin a 30-day countdown to a strike but was rejected.
The Southwest Airlines Pilots Association announced Monday its members ratified a new contract after three years of bargaining, the AP reports. The new contract will raise the pay rate nearly 50% by 2028 for about 11,000 pilots, among other provisions.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a statement from Southwest.