Southwest has enjoyed better management-labor relations than other large U.S. airlines, and it boasts of never furloughing an employee. However, the lawsuit is the latest evidence of the carrier's increasingly strained relationship with unions, which represent 83% of its 56,000 employees.
Southwest — like its rivals — paid incentives for thousands of employees to quit last year, only to be caught short when travel picked up this summer. Unions for frontline workers including pilots and flight attendants have blamed management for many delayed and canceled flights.
The pilots' union is considering airing its grievances by picketing at airports later this year.
The two sides began negotiating over a new contract in January 2020.