Southwest flight attendants respond to pilot’s rant, call for airline to ‘remedy this injustice’

Posted on 22 Jun 2011 at 5:10pm

TWU Local 556, which represents 9,400 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines, issued a statement this afternoon in response to a homophobic, misogynistic rant by one of the company’s pilots that was captured on an open cockpit microphone back in March. As we told you Tuesday night, the pilot was suspended without pay for the incident, but the company won’t say for how long. The company also hasn’t released the pilot’s name.

We spoke briefly today with Brad Hawkins, a gay former WFAA reporter who’s now one of Southwest’s spokespeople. But Hawkins said he couldn’t comment beyond a statement that was posted this morning on the company’s website, which is identical to the one it gave KPRC Channel 2 for its original story about the incident. (The company has also posted a video statement from Capt. Chuck Magill, its vice president for flight operations.)

The flight attendants union, in its statement, says it is “dismayed by the response from Southwest Airlines’ management” and that the company has “added ‘insult to injury.’” The union also says its attorneys will investigate the possibility of filing an EEOC complaint with the federal government based on the incident. “We hope not to have to go that route, and instead, we are counting on Southwest Airlines to remedy this injustice. Bigotry in the workplace is bad business and unacceptable behavior on the ground and at 30,000 feet,” reads the union’s statement, which we’ve posted in its entirety below.

Also issuing an official statement about the incident today was Resource Center Dallas, whose executive director Cece Cox was quoted extensively in KPRC’s original story. Cox’s follow-up statement notes that Southwest Airlines has been been a supporter of the LGBT community for many years, has a nondiscrimination policy that includes LGBT employees, and provides diversity training. Cox says the incident was “in stark contrast” to an inclusive culture and calls for the company to “to explore the effectiveness of their current diversity training program, and both evaluate and affirm their corporate commitment to inclusivity and safety.” Cox’s full statement follows the union’s statement after the jump.

Finally, in case you haven’t heard it yet, here’s the raw audio of the pilot’s rant:

Houston Pilot Caught on Tape by Christina Warren

Statement by Thom McDaniel Pres. of TWU Local 556

Representing Southwest Flight Attendants on Incident of Insults and Slurs Broadcast over ATC Frequencies Demeaning Flight Attendants

Flight attendants at Southwest Airlines are deeply disappointed and angered by the insensitive, and unprofessional comments demeaning flight attendants that were broadcast by a Southwest pilot over frequencies used by the FAA for air traffic control on March 25, 2011, revealed just yesterday.

Southwest’s flight attendants are highly respected by our customers for their skill, professionalism and customer service and expect that same respect from co-workers. We do important work and should not be demeaned by pilots, managers or anyone.

We also are dismayed by the response from Southwest Airlines’ management.

The official response from Southwest’s spokespeople and leaders has only added ‘insult to injury.’ Calling this broadcast a ‘private conversation’ cannot dismiss this incident.

Our Union is rooted in fighting for the rights and protections of working people, including forging the battles to end the prohibition of married women, pregnant women and men from serving as flight attendants and we will not go backward by accepting the behavior and speech of this pilot or any other employee. We are calling on Southwest Airlines to address this problem throughout our company, not as an isolated incident, but as a mandate that our workplace will be free from discrimination of all forms as a condition of continued employment.

We have instructed our attorneys today to investigate the possibility of filing an EEOC charge with the federal government. We hope not to have to go that route, and instead, we are counting on Southwest Airlines to remedy this injustice. Bigotry in the workplace is bad business and unacceptable behavior on the ground and at 30,000 feet.

TWU Local 556 represents 9,400 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines. The union is an affiliate of the Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), which represents 200,000 workers and retirees, primarily in commercial aviation, public transportation and passenger railroads. The union is an affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

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Resource Center Dallas issues statement on Southwest Airlines’ pilot’s anti-gay comments caught on tape

Dallas — The following statement is from Cece Cox. J.D. , executive director and chief executive officer of Resource Center Dallas, about the comments made by a pilot for Dallas-based Southwest Airlines, as reported by KPRC-TV in Houston:

“Southwest Airlines has been a supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, both nationally and in the markets that it serves, for a number of years. They were right to suspend the pilot, whose homophobic comments to a co-worker in mid-flight were broadcast over several states due to a stuck microphone. This incident is in sharp contrast to an inclusive culture that respects and values diverse employees and customers.

“Southwest has a nondiscrimination policy that covers LGBT employees, and, according to the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, the airline offers diversity training.  Southwest has issued a statement that the pilot received training as a result of what he said to his co-worker. While we hope the training is helpful to the pilot, such training is more effective used proactively, rather than as a punishment.

“We urge Southwest to use this incident to explore the effectiveness of their current diversity training program, and both evaluate and affirm their corporate commitment to inclusivity and safety. A new study published earlier this week from the Center for Work-Life Policy shows nearly half the LGBT employees surveyed remain closeted in the workplace because the environment is not safe for them to be out. All of the airline’s employees and customers deserve an environment that is safe and where they are respected, regardless of age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other status.”

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