Boston food service workers win standard setting pay increase

Food service workers at Northeastern University in Boston voted on October 10 to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement that will raise their annual wage to at least $35,000 by 2019.

The new agreement is the second collective bargaining agreement that the workers’ union UNITE HERE Local 26 has negotiated that establishes a minimum annual salary of $35,000 for university food service workers in the Boston area.

The agreements also provide for improved health care and pension benefits and should serve as a new standard for collective bargaining agreements that unions in the area negotiate for service workers.

At Northeastern, members of Local 26 had voted to strike unless their new collective bargaining agreement included a substantial pay increase.

They needed a big pay raise because their pay was so low that some of the workers were receiving public assistance.

They reasoned that their employer Chartwells, which operates university dining halls all over the US and is owned by the international food service conglomerate Compass Group, shouldn’t be paying poverty wages.

Their vote to strike was inspired by the success of Harvard food service workers who won a minimum annual salary of $35,000 a year ago as a result of a 22-day strike.

The Chartwells workers were prepared to begin their strike on October 11, two days before Northeastern was to host the annual meeting of the Clinton Foundation’s Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU).

According to the Clinton Foundation, CGIU meetings bring together “students, university representatives, top experts, and celebrities . . . to discuss and develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges” including among other things “the alleviation of poverty.”

Had the strike taken place, Bill and Chelsea Clinton and others attending the meeting to discuss innovative strategies for alleviating poverty would have had to decide whether to cross the workers’ picket line to attend the meeting or to honor the picket line in order to stand in solidarity with workers fighting to alleviate their own poverty.

The union and Chartwells, however, reached an agreement just a few hours before the strike was to begin.

The new agreement includes a total wage increase of $5.56 an hour over five years for all workers. By 2019 all full-time workers will be making at least $35,000 a year.

In addition, the company will pay 97 percent of the workers’ health care costs and will begin contributing to UNITE HERE’s pension fund so that workers can start accruing retirement benefits.

The new contract also includes protections for immigrants, more sick days, better non-discrimination language in the contract that includes protections for gender identity and expression, additional sick days, and language that protects workers from lost wages when the state declares snow day emergencies.

“I am so proud of what we accomplished,” said Angela Bello, a Northeastern food service worker and member of the Local 26 bargaining team. “It’s amazing to feel the power that workers have when we get together and are well organized. The ways this contract will impact our lives is almost hard to believe. Thank you to everyone who supported us and believed in us.”

Brian Lang, president of Local 26, said that the new collective bargaining agreement at Northeastern will serve as the standard in the union’s next round of bargaining for service workers in the Boston area.

“Our union fights so that our members can have their fair share of the wealth they create. Last year that meant we struck Harvard University for 22 days. This week we threatened to do the same at Northeastern. Next on the list are the 34 Boston hotels where contracts expire in 2018.” said Lang.

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DC transit workers criticize boss for lack of safety culture and more

Angry union members on April 27 turned their backs on and walked out of a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) board meeting chanting, “Who moves this city? We move this city.”

Members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 attended the meeting to protest WMATA’s new sick leave policy that requires workers to give three days advanced notice before taking sick leave.

But the sick leave issue is only one of a number of grievances that has raised workers’ ire with WMATA’s management, especially its Chief Executive Officer and General Manager Paul Wiedefeld.

Workers are angry about the lack of a safety culture at WMATA, threats to workers’ jobs caused by management’s proposal to outsource more work, proposed legislation intended to tilt the bargaining relationship in favor of management, concessionary contract demands proposed by management, and high fares and operational problems that have caused a dramatic decline in the number public transportation riders in the Washington DC area.

Earlier in the month, Wiedefeld proposed a plan to revive WMATA’s troubled bus and commuter rail service. His plan relies heavily on outsourcing union jobs and cutting workers’ benefits.

“Instead of offering real proposals to improve (Washington DC’s public transportation) system and win riders back, Wiedefeld has, once again, pitted riders against workers in an attempt to balance the agency’s budget on the backs of WMATA’s hard working employees,” reads a statement issued by Local 689 to Wiedefeld’s proposal.

Local 689 offered its own proposal for improving public transportation in a report published in March.

The report proposes new options for funding WMATA that do not include raising fares as Wiedefeld has proposed.

It takes a lot of money to maintain the commuter trains, buses, tracks, and other capital equipment required to keep the nation’s third largest public transportation system running.

But for too long, WMATA  has been underfunded, and without adequate funding, it has been difficult for the transit authority to keep its trains, buses, and rail lines in good working order.

Without well maintained vehicles and infrastructure, reliable public transportation is next to impossible.

To make the Washington area’s public transportation more reliable, Local 689 has proposed a number of ways to increase WMATA’s funding without raising fares.

One of its proposals would be to create WMATA Assessment Districts that would assess and collect fees from properties located near WMATA stations.

Businesses located close to stations have benefited from their location, and an assessment fee would return some of those benefits to WMATA and its riders.

The union proposal also calls for a less complicated fare structure that would allow transfers between rail transportation and buses.

Allowing transfers between buses and rail increased ridership in New York City by 15 percent and could do the same for DC, states the report.

The union report also talks about the need to improve the safety culture at WMATA.

The lack of safety at WMATA has caught the attention of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), which oversees safety at WMATA.

Last year, FTA issued what the Washington Post called “a damning . . . report” on the lack of track safety on WMATA’s Metro rail system “that put(s) riders at risk.”

More recently, FTA in a letter to Wiedefeld noted several safety incidents that show that “WMATA has not consistently followed its own (Roadway Worker  Protection)  requirements and that unsafe practices exist that present substantial risk of death or personal injury to roadway workers.”

The letter threaten WMATA with the loss of federal funds unless it takes immediate action to resolve the safety issues.

Local 689 applauded FTA’s directive and and called on WMATA to work with the union in a labor management partnership for safety.

“If WMATA is serious about addressing its safety failures, they will engage the workforce in creating a plan and stop putting its employees and riders in danger,” said the union in its statement about FTA’s letter.

But Wiedefeld has shown little interest in working with workers or their union on safety or other issues.

In fact, he is supporting federal legislation that will weaken the union and allow WMATA to outsource more work to private contractors.

The bill entitled the Improvement Act of 2017, sponsored by John Delaney, a Democrat from Maryland, requires changes to the collective bargaining agreement between WMATA and Local 689 that would allow WMATA to outsource more work.

Doing so, said the union, would create more safety problems.

“Contract workers lack familiarity with Metro’s particular issues and are prone to performing substandard work,” said the union. “Local 689 members are often called upon to redo work that has been poorly done by private contractors. This is both inefficient and dangerous.”

Rep. Delaney’s proposed legislation comes at a time when negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement between Local 689 and WMATA have broken down.

The old contract expired last summer, but union members continue to work under its terms.

Jackie Jeter, Local 689’s president, told WTOP News that negotiations broke off because WMATA keeps saying “no” to everything the union proposes.

Bloomingdale’s union workers bargain for online commissions

Bloomingdale’s, an upscale nationwide department store, and its New York City employees are negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.

The negotiations are taking place at a time when customer shopping habits are shifting. More of Bloomingdale’s customers are making their purchases online.

But this trend hasn’t made the employees in the store superfluous. They still play an important role in the success of Bloomingdale’s.

“It’s unionized workers at the Bloomingdale’s flagship store who deliver the top-notch service and create the shopping experience so many customers have come to expect and love,” said said Cassandra Berrocal, president of Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) Local 3, the New City Bloomingdale’s workers’ union. “These workers deserve a fair new contract that values their enormous contributions to the financial health and growth of Bloomingdale’s.”

The union wants Bloomingdale’s to recognize the important role that its workers are playing by paying them commissions on online sales.

Customers will often come into stores to gather information about purchases and then finalize their purchases at home online, in some cases, to take advantage on online discounts.

“(Union sales clerks) will help them for hours, and then they go home and buy (online),” said Chelsea Connor, director of communications and media for RWDSU to CBS MoneyWatch. “(Clerks) are spending a lot of time on the phone and on the floor, and not making what we used to make.”

Some sales clerks have seen their commission income drop by as much as 20 percent because of increased online purchases.

In many cases, those online purchases are the result of hard work that sales clerks put in answering customer questions and helping them gather information about their purchases.

“People will come in and take an hour or more of our time looking at furniture, and then they’ll say ‘Can I buy this online?'” said a Bloomingdale’s furniture department employee who preferred not to give her name to Racked, an online media site that covers style and fashion.

 

It’s not just the sales clerks who make Bloomingdale’s continue to be profitable while other retail stores are struggling.

Local 3 members include shelf stockers and clerical workers as well as retail clerks.

These workers also want their contributions to Bloomingdale’s success recognized.

But Bloomingdale’s came to the bargaining table demanding a slew of concessions.

The company wants to eliminate workers’ pensions, make them pay more for health care coverage, take away scheduling protections, eliminate seniority rights, and take away compensatory days for working on holidays.

The union is resisting these takeaways and fighting for a fair pay increase for all workers.

Negotiations at Bloomingdale’s are coming a time when the retail sales industry is facing uncertain times.

The rise of online sales and other changes to customers shopping habits are affecting sales.

Because of the changes facing the retail sales industry, Macy’s, the owner of Bloomingdale’s, last year announced that it would be closing 68 Macy’s stores and eliminating 10,000 jobs.

Macy’s has been joined by other retailers. Sears, K-Mart, JC Penney, Abercrombie & Fitch, Payless Shoes, Radio Shack, and Staples among others have all announced significant store closings and layoffs.

But Bloomingdale’s has defied this trend.

Instead of closing stores, Bloomingdale has been opening new stores. The number of Bloomingdale’s stores, including outlet stores, increased from 50 in 2014 to 55 in 2016, and the company plans to open more new stores.

Stuart Appelbaum, president of RWDSU, said that instead of seeking concessions, Bloomingdale’s should be rewarding its workers for the company’s success.

“Bloomingdale’s should recognize that these incredible workers make the flagship store a highly profitable global showroom for customers from many countries,” said Appelbaum. “These dedicated employees generate millions in sales for Bloomingdale’s, including from the company’s website. They deserve a fair contract that offers commissions for online sales and returned items, along with good wages, benefits, and scheduling protections.”

Local 3’s current collective bargaining agreement with Bloomingdale’s expires on May 1.

In a message to members, the union ne said that progress had been made during the negotiations but “many very difficult issues remain to be resolved.”

Earlier in the month, the union told members to be prepared to start picketing the store if an agreement could not be reached by May 1.

Strike at Verizon set for April 13

CWA and IBEW, two unions that represent 39,000 Verizon workers in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, announced that the unions will strike Verizon beginning at 6 A.M. on April 13 unless a fair new collective bargaining agreement is reached.

The strike will be the largest work stoppage in the US since the same Verizon workers went on a two-week strike in 2011.

Bargaining representatives for both unions said that Verizon’s greed is the cause of this strike.

“We’re standing up for working families and standing up to Verizon’s corporate greed,” said CWA District 1 vice president Dennis Trainor. “If a hugely profitable corporation like Verizon can destroy the good family-supporting jobs of highly skilled workers, then no worker in America will be safe from this corporate race to the bottom.”

“For months and months, we’ve made every effort to reach a fair agreement at the bargaining table,” said Myles Calvey, IBEW Local 2222 business manager and chairman, T-6 Verizon New England. “We’ve offered Verizon hundreds of millions of dollars in cost savings and yet they still refuse to provide basic job security for workers. We have to take a stand now for our families and every American worker.”

CWA and IBEW have been bargaining with Verizon for ten months. In August, their collective bargaining agreement expired, but the unions agreed to continue negotiations in hopes of finding common ground that would make a fair agreement possible.

In March, the unions proposed a path for addressing the company’s critical needs including health care cost savings of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Instead of responding to unions’ proposals with proposals that addressed the union workers’ critical needs, the company continued to demand steep concessions.

In addition, Verizon told union negotiators that unless the unions accepted these concessions by May 20, the company would start transferring technicians without their consent to any place where Verizon does business in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states.

The transfers would last for up to two months. During that time, workers would be forced to live away from their homes and families.

“Verizon is already turning people’s lives upside down by sending us hundreds of miles from home for weeks at a time, and now they want to make it even worse,” said Dan Hylton, a technician and CWA member in Roanoke, Virginia, who has been with Verizon for 20 years. “Technicians on our team have always been happy to volunteer after natural disasters when our customers needed help, but if I was forced away from home for two months, I have no idea what my wife would do. She had back surgery last year, and she needs my help. I just want to do a good job, be there for my family, and have a decent life.”

In addition to asserting more control over their employees time away from work, Verizon is demanding concessions that, according to the unions would “gut job security protections, contract out more of our work, freeze our pensions at 30 years of service, and shutter call centers and offshore the jobs to Mexico and the Philippines.”

Verizon also wants to eliminate profit sharing and raise health care costs for retirees. In addition, the company refuses to offer wage increases and benefit improvements to it unionized Wireless workers.

Verizon is demanding all these concessions at a time when the company is extremely profitable.

During the last three years, the company booked profits of $39 billion. During the first three months of 2016, Verizon has averaged $1.8 billion a month in profits.

Verizon executives have been amply compensated for the company’s profitability.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam was paid $18 million last year, 200 hundred more times than the average Verizon worker.

Over the last five years, Verizon’s top five executives were paid $233 million.

Shareholders have also been treated generously.

“Last year alone, Verizon paid out $13.5 billion in dividends and stock buybacks to shareholders. But they claim they can’t afford a fair contract,” reads a message that CWA sent to members about the upcoming strike.

“More and more, Americans are outraged by what some of the nation’s wealthiest corporations have done to working people over the last 30 years, and Verizon is becoming the poster child for everything that people in this country are angry about,” said Edward Mooney, vice president, CWA District 2-13. “This very profitable company wants to push people down.”

Mooney also criticized Verizon for not fulfilling its promise to expand its fiber optic network (FIOS) to communities that are not adequately served by high-speed internet service and for not maintaining it copper wire network that enables land line services to homes and businesses.

Verizon doesn’t just want to push down its workers it also wants to “push communities down by not fully repairing the network and by not building out FIOS.”

Appeals court rules against FedEx in its attempt to avoid collective bargaining

A three-judge panel on the US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has told FedEx that it must engage in collective bargaining with company drivers in Charlotte, North Carolina and Croydon, Pennsylvania who voted to join Teamster locals.

The Croydon and Charlotte drivers voted in 2014 to join Teamsters Local 107 and Local 71 respectively.

Since the two votes, FedEx has refused to recognize and bargain with the workers’ unions.

FedEx contended that the NLRB erred when it recognized the drivers as a group of workers with a shared community interests and called for a union representation election among the drivers.

The judges, however, disagreed with FedEx.

In ruling in favor of the NLRB, the court upheld the NLRB’s Specialty Healthcare framework for determining an appropriate bargaining unit for a union representation election.

The Specialty Healthcare framework allows a group of workers who share a community of interests to form a union even if the group does not include all other workers on the job.

In 2011, the NLRB ruled that a group of certified nursing assistants working at a nursing home operated by Specialty Healthcare in Mobile, Alabama could form a union that did not include nurses and other nursing home workers.

That decision ignited an outcry from anti-union businesses, which contended that the Specialty Healthcare framework would allow the formation of “micro unions” that would create an unfair burden for businesses.

In 2013, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an appeal by one of these anti-union businesses seeking to overturn the Specialty Healthcare framework.

Like their cohorts on the Sixth Circuit Appeals Court, The three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court also refused to overturn the Specialty Healthcare framework and noted that the NLRB acted within its authority.

FedEx argued that the appropriate bargaining unit at Croydon and Charlotte should have included dockworkers, most of whom were part-time temporary workers, who would have then been eligible to vote in the union representation election.

But the NLRB found that the work of drivers and dockworkers did not overlap enough to create an overwhelming community of interests; therefore, if the drivers wanted a union to represent them alone they had a right to vote for such a union.

The Eighth Circuit Court judges concurred.

Before the Eighth Circuit Court panel issued its ruling, the NLRB ruled that FedEx had to bargain with another group of who voted to join the Teamsters.

The NLRB in February ordered FedEx to cease and desist from refusing to bargain with its drivers at its terminal in Stockton, California. The drivers voted a year ago to join Teamsters Local 439.

“This is a huge victory for the drivers who voted to form their union with Local 439, and we will continue to fight on behalf of these workers until they ratify their first contract,” said Ken Guertin, Local 439 secretary-treasurer after the NLRB issued its ruling.

The FedEx workers at Stockton, Charlotte, and Croydon joined drivers in South Brunswick, New Jersey in voting to join the Teamsters, which has been trying to organize non-union FexEx in a terminal-by-terminal campaign.

The terminal-by-terminal approach has been tough going for the Teamsters. They’ve lost six out of ten terminal elections.

In trying to keep its workers from joining a union, FedEx has used a carrot and stick approach.

In Croydon when drivers filed a petition for a union representation election, FedEx gave them an $0.80 an hour raise and stopped using an overly punitive report card to grade workers’ performance.

In Stockton when the organizing effort got underway, FedEx used the stick. In one instance it took away work hours from Edgar Aguilar, an active union supporter. The company recently agreed to pay Aguilar $4,900 in back pay for hours it took away from him at the time of the election.

Despite a mixed record of union representation elections at FedEx, the Teamsters said that they are still committed to organizing FedEx.

“The International Union, working side-by-side with all the freight local unions, is committed to this campaign over the long-term,” said Tyson Johnson, director of the Teamsters National Freight Division. “We hope that the company will get serious and negotiate a fair contract for the workers.”

The recent victories at the Eighth Circuit Court and at the NLRB should help boost the organizing campaign.

 

CTU urges City Council to sue predatory lenders and demands mayor’s resignation

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on January 12 urged Chicago’s City Council to take legal action against predatory lenders whose alleged illegal conduct could cost the city and its schools as much as $1.4 billion.

According to CTU and the Chicago Tribune, Bank of America and other financial institutions marketed risky derivative deals called interest rate swaps as safe insurance against potential interest rate increases on school bonds.

The Chicago Public School district is currently facing a budget deficit that could cause the layoff of 5000 teachers and other public school employees. CTU is negotiating with school district on a new collective bargaining agreement and is fighting the proposed layoffs.

The head of the school district was appointed by and reports to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

A week earlier, CTU’s House of Delegates  overwhelmingly voted for a resolution calling for the resignation of Mayor Emanuel.

The resolution criticized Emanuel’s divestment in public education, which the resolution says “(has harmed) Chicago’s public schools and working-class neighborhoods” and his actions in trying to cover up the facts in the police shooting of Laquan McDonald, a 17 year-old African American high school student shot and killed by a white Chicago police officer as McDonald was walking away from the officer.

In calling on the City Council to take legal action against financial institutions that sold the questionable interest rate swaps, CTU President Karen Lewis said that the union had strong evidence showing that Bank of America and others broke the law.

The interest rate swaps were essentially bets on the volatility of the auction-rate bond market, where the school district sold some of its variable rate bonds.

If the market’s interest rates increased, the swaps would protect the school district from paying higher interest rates. If, however, interest rates declined, the school district would owe the swaps’ sellers hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties

CTU has obtained internal e-mails from 2007 showing that Bank of America had knowledge that the auction-rate market was about to crater causing interest rates to drop precipitously. The bank, however, did not share this information with the school district putting the district on the hook for $450 million in penalty payments.

Furthermore, according to the union, Bank of America and other banks “illegally (colluded) to manipulate the interest rates.”

“We should take legal action to cancel the deals, get out of penalties and claw back losses,” said CTU President Karen Lewis. “The standard industry practice was for banks to emphasize the potential upside of these deals, but downplay the risks. This is a violation of the ‘fair dealing’ rule that governs municipal finance.”

In addition to the $450 in swaps penalties, CTU wants $850 million in swap payments returned.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the swap deals “contributed to (the school district’s) ongoing financial troubles.”

In response to these financial troubles, Mayor Emanuel has closed 50 schools mostly in predominately African American and Latino neighborhoods despite the strenuous objections of parents and community members, laid off teachers and other school employees, which caused overcrowding in classrooms, and under funded wrap around services to students such as counseling, libraries, and psychological support.

The union in its resolution calling for Mayor Emanuel’s resignation said that Emanuel’s cuts to school wrap around services contributed to McDonald’s death.

While McDonald posed no threat to the officer who shot him, McDonald was a troubled young man.

He spent most of his life in foster care and suffered from severe psychological trauma.

According to CTU’s resolution, McDonald’s fate “may have been altered had his mental health needs been met both in and out of school.”

In addition to not adequately funding school counseling services, Emanuel also closed six of city’s 12 mental health clinics.

CTU’s call for Mayor Emanuel’s resignation and its call for legal action to recover more than $1 billion resulting from questionable swaps deals, comes at a time when the union is negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the school district.

CTU is aiming to stop the proposed layoffs, improve teaching and learning conditions in schools, and improve the district’s wrap around services, especially in low-income communities.

Union members took the first step toward improving Chicago public education when 88 percent of the membership voted in December to authorize a strike unless the new collective bargaining agreement allows for investment rather than divestment in Chicago’s public schools.

After the vote, CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey urged the mayor and his school CEO to “listen to what teachers and educators are trying to tell you: do not cut the schools anymore, do not make the layoffs that you have threatened; instead, respect educators and give us the tools we need to do our jobs.”

“Chicago Teachers Union members do not want to strike, but we do demand that you listen to us,” added Sharkey.

Southwest suspends workers for attending a union meeting

Transport Workers Union Local 555 has set up a Go Fund Me account to raise money for more than 100 of its members who were suspended by Southwest Airlines for attending a union meeting.

“On December 8 and 9 Southwest Airlines issued unpaid suspensions ranging from 45 to 90 days to more than 100 of our Brothers and Sisters for attending regional union meetings in Southern California and Orlando, Florida,” reported Local 555 on its website.

Local 555 represents 11,000 Southwest Airlines baggage handlers and other ground workers.

The union and Southwest Airlines have been negotiating a new contract for four and one-half years. The two sides entered mediation in 2012 to resolve the dispute, but no progress has been made.

Despite the company’s record profits, Local 555 members have not received a raise in three years.

Local 555 called union meetings on November 18 in Southern California and November 20 in Orlando, Florida to discuss the negotiations and options for moving forward.

Some union members used personal leave time as is permitted by their collective bargaining agreement to attend the meetings.

Southwest Airlines alleges that those who used their leave time to attend the meeting were engaging in an illegal strike and suspended them.

Lou Mang, a 13-year Southwest ramp agent in Burbank, California and a union station representative, was one of those suspended.

“This 90-day unpaid suspension will devastate my family,” said Mang, who works double shift overtime twice a week to meet his family’s expenses.

One of Mang’s sons is in college, and Mang is worried that the loss of pay from his suspension will mean that his son won’t be able to return to college when the new semester begins in January.

“I feel our contractual rights have been totally violated and don’t understand why we are being punished and suspended,” said Mang. “I also don’t understand why the company is doing this cost wise; they are paying for the cost of temporary workers, hotels, etc. when we are all ready to work. We feel helpless and we feel we have done nothing wrong. It just seems very unfair.”

Eric Rosales, a 14-year Southwest ramp agent at John Wayne Airport in the Los Angeles area, said that he was surprised when he was suddenly pulled off the job and interrogated about use of his personal leave time. He said that the interrogation made him feel like a criminal.

Rosales and his wife have a six-year old daughter. He said that the suspension has been stressful for the whole family.

“Rent is a terrifying thing to think of, and we’ve called the bank to talk about our car payment,” said Rosales. “Thankfully, we had already bought a couple of Christmas presents for our daughter before this happened and she doesn’t ask for much; I think she knows we don’t have it right now.”

Rafael Zavala, an eight-year Southwest cargo agent in Ontario, California, didn’t even attend the union meeting, but was still suspended.

Zavala took personal time off to take care of his two children, so that his wife could attend the funeral of a co-worker.

TWU International President Harry Lombardo said that the international, which has contributed $25,000 to the Go Fund Me account, would stand behind the suspended workers.

“In this union, one local’s fight is everyone’s fight,” said Lombardo. “I’m tired of watching the airline industry get rich on the backs of working people. It’s time to fight back.”

While Southwest has avoided negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement and has frozen ground workers’ wages, the company  reported a record-breaking $584 million in profits for the third quarter of 2015.

“We are very pleased to report outstanding third quarter 2015 results marked by a 63.1% year-over-year increase in net income, excluding special items,” said Southwest’s CEO Gary Kelly to investors.

Kelly added that low fuel prices are the primary reason for the record profits.

USA reports that during the third quarter, Southwest paid $549 million to shareholders through dividends and stock buybacks.

Lombardo said that the suspensions were further proof that the current bargaining structure in the airline industry is unfair to workers.

“Companies are raking in record profits, CEOs are doing better than ever, and air travel has never been more expensive,” said Lombardo. “Yet the people who get up and go to work every day to make sure those flights get off the ground – pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, ground crews, you name it – are struggling to support their families.”

Lombardo added that under the current bargaining structure, airlines have no incentive to bargain in good faith.

“The game is rigged, and I won’t stand by and watch as Southwest Airlines – or any company – continues to exploit the hardworking men and women of this union,” said Lombardo.