After the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association sent out a statement earlier this week requesting that CEO Gary Kelly and COO Mike Van de Ven step down from their posts, Kelly shot back at them.
“I’m not going anywhere and neither is Mike Van de Ven,” he said in a video that was sent out to Southwest (LUV) employees. Kelly said that SWAPA’s statement and vote of no confidence was “part of a labor negotiations playbook,” and not about the reasons that they had listed. “It was a personal attack on me, Mike Van de Ven, our culture, and our company,” Kelly said in the video, calling the unions’ actions “tribalism at its worst.”
Captain Jon Weaks, president of SWAPA, stated that the two executives have been making poor decisions by prioritizing “short-term stock performance at the expense of long-term investment in people and infrastructure,” resulting in chaotic scheduling and technological glitches, and therefore they should resign.
The effort is being backed by three additional unions representing flight attendants, mechanics, and ground operations employees. In total the four unions represent about 70% of the airline’s workers. “The culture of Southwest is just not the way it used to be,” Greg Puriski, president of Transport Workers Union Local 555, explained to Bloomberg. “It’s profits before people now, which is very disheartening. We don’t like the direction of our company.”
“It’s not uncommon for Unions to band together in support of each other during difficult contract negotiations,” Southwest’s senior vice president of labor relations, Randy Babbitt, told Fortune in a statement. “We have been working to negotiate market contracts and look forward to continuing our discussions with union representatives. But those talks must take place at the negotiating table.”
The company currently has five contracts open—those for pilots and mechanics are now in mediation, and contracts for flight attendants, material specialists, and facilities maintenance technicians are in the direct negotiations stage.