I write in follow-up to recent correspondence (Ref. 1-3), grievance SWA-7687, and representations by Southwest in a recent court filing.
First, notwithstanding my request to commence bargaining (Ref. 1) regarding effects of the recent policy change implementing a mandatory COVID-19 vaccine, and some back and forth since then (Ref. 2, 3), we still await the start of meaningful discussions. Time is of the essence on this particular issue and AMFA stands ready and willing to enter into meaningful discussions on the effects of Southwest’s compliance with the September 9, 2021, Presidential Executive Order 14042 now. Of particular concern is how Southwest will reasonably accommodate those who object to COVID-19 vaccination on grounds of religion and disability. To this effect, we note that United has accommodate maintenance personnel with these objections via a combination of twice weekly COVID testing and masking.
Second, as you should know, AMFA recently timely and properly raised a minor dispute by the filing of a group grievance concerning the Company’s new vaccine policy, Gr. No. SWA-7687 – and has requested expedited arbitration of it. (Ref. 4). We await a response and note that the parties have cooperated in the recent past to utilize the jurisdiction of the System Board of Adjustment on an expedited basis. Please be advised that it is AMFA’s position that a delay in convening the Board in this matter will prejudice AMFA. To facilitate this request, AMFA will agree to any of the six currently mutually approved arbitrators on the AMFA & SWA panel who is prepared to hold an expedited hearing.
Third, in its court filing on Friday (Case No. 3:21-cv-02065-M, Dkt 15, p. 13, i.e. SWAPA v SWA), the Company stated to the Court that:
None of SWA’s other unions have taken the approach that SWAPA has taken here. Some of the unions have accepted the vaccine mandate, and those that have
contested it are treating it as a minor dispute that is subject to the grievance and arbitration procedure detailed in the applicable CBA. CK Decl. at D. App. 9-10, ¶30.
The above statement mischaracterizes AMFA's position as has been expressed to the Company. My earlier letter (Ref. 1) both demanded bargaining and specifically raised questions about the validity of the December 8 deadline, and specifically asked for access to the relevant federal contracts. These requests have effectively been ignored.
I look forward to a response at your earliest convenience and again note the urgency of taking timely, practical action. For example, we would consider the Company's unilateral implementation of policies either terminating or placing on unpaid leave those AMFA members who object to vaccination based on sincerely held religious beliefs or disability to constitute either a major dispute or a minor dispute that may require court action to prevent what the Northern District of Texas in the Sambrano litigation has characterized as “irreparably injury.”
Region II Director
Bret Oestreich, National President
Frank Lo Galbo, Local 4 Airline Representative
Craig Hamlet, Local 11 Airline Representative
Wayne Lampley, Local 18 Airline Representative
Duane Mendez, Acting Local 32 Airline Representative
Nicholas Granath, AMFA Legal
Lucas Middlebrook, AMFA Legal
Kurt Kinder, Kurt.Kinder@wnco.com
Anthony Wafer, Anthony.Wafer@wnco.com
Michelle Jordan, Michelle.Jordan@wnco.com