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Southwest Airlines, airport workers reach tentative deal

A woman in a blue shirt and black jacket stands behind a computer and a desk with a sign that says SOUTHWEST in the background. A woman in a black shirt stands in front of the desk.
Tony Gutierrez
A Southwest airlines customer service representative, left, assists a traveler at the ticketing counter at Love Field airport, Friday, May 19, 2023. The Dallas-based carrier reached a tentative contract agreement with its airport workers this week.

Southwest Airlines and the union representing the carrier's ramp, operations, provisioning and freight employees announced a tentative deal Thursday that the union says would provide the airport workers' first pay raise in almost three years.

The proposed contract with TWU Local 555 — which includes baggage handlers, cargo handlers and customer-facing employees like gate agents, among others — raises wages across the board, including a new industry-leading $38-an-hour rate for workers at the top of the pay scale, according to details released by the union.

“This agreement rewards them for their hard work, and I’m grateful for the dedication shown by both negotiating committees as they worked to reach this agreement,” Adam Carlisle, Southwest's vice president of labor relations, wrote in a statement.

The deal would allow workers to reach the top of the pay scale after 10 years of service instead of 11 years, and includes a higher 401(k) match and a $140 million lump sum bonus to workers, the union said.

But the deal's passage is not a sure thing: Thursday's announcement comes just five months after workers rejected another deal with the Dallas-based carrier.

It also comes as Southwest works to finalize a contract with its flight attendants. Last month, the flight attendants union voted to authorize a strike if both sides could not reach a deal. Southwest did reach a deal with its pilots last month.

In a statement, TWU Local 555 President Randy Barnes expressed optimism about the deal.

“Our goal has always been to fight for a contract that rewards our members with the highest increases in wages, bonuses and 401k match in the industry and this tentative agreement gets us there without question,” Barnes said. “We’ve worked tirelessly to get to this point because we recognized how important it was for our members receive these improvements quickly.”

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