This is a crazy labor relations story at Southwest Airlines.
A Southwest maintenance worker and union rep was fired for encouraging other Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association employees to take an illegal coordinated job action against the airline. A supervisor overheard him “encouraging his coworkers not to accept overtime assignments.”
However an arbitrator ordered that he be re-instated because the supervisor only heard part of the conversation, he may only have been answering questions initiated by other employees rather than proactively pushing those employees to refuse overtime. Or at least Southwest hadn’t proven otherwise. (In my view he deserves to be fired, even if the union contract says the threshold is higher.)
He’s due back pay minus funds he received during the time he wasn’t employed by Southwest. That means his income from a job with an aviation school credits against the wages he would have earned. And it includes $25,000 donated to him via a GoFundme page.
The union is livid that member donations are counting against the amount Southwest has to pay. They call it theft,
The Company would fire any of us at the slightest allegation of theft – but apparently Southwest has no issue attempting to steal the hard‐earned donations you made in support of Ken.
Southwest is probably right, this is money in lieu of work and they only have to top him off to what he would have earned had he stayed on the job. However the optics here are terrible, Southwest’s obligation is reduced because of the voluntary donations from its employees. They’re probably better off dropping their position and covering the $25,000 because they’re handing the union an issue which will breed resentment amongst employees and potentially cost them far more.
That said, Southwest’s willingness to play hardball with underperforming employees and those who act against the airline’s culture on the job is one of the keys to their success. Their willingness to fire less than 1% of ground workers and flight attendants each year means that the rest of their team doesn’t have to pick up the slack from employees who don’t do their jobs or do it bitterly. It prevents the worst of any bunch from poisoning the culture.