Erich Schwenk

For TWU Local 556 2nd Vice President

Hello! My name is Erich Schwenk. I’m a Chicago-based Flight Attendant and longtime Union Advocate. Click below and find out more!

Erich Schwenk

For TWU Local 556 2nd Vice President

Hello! My name is Erich Schwenk. I’m a Chicago-based Flight Attendant and longtime Union Advocate. Click below and find out more!

Focused on our Future

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Strategic Initiatives

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Fiscal Management

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Listening and Member Engagement

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Succession Planning

About Erich Schwenk

My name is Erich Schwenk and I’m running for 2nd Vice President at TWU Local 556. I’m running to make our Union stronger, provide enhanced Union services, and keep an eye on the budget. 

First, a bit about me. I’ve been at Southwest Airlines for more than half my life – May will be 22 years. In that time I’ve been a Ramp Agent in San Diego, a Ramp Supervisor in New Orleans and I opened the Philly station in 2004. And in 2005 I joined Inflight. I’ve been based in Oakland, Denver, and the overwhelming majority of my time has been in Chicago.

I became involved with our Local shortly after becoming a Flight Attendant and increasingly more after becoming a Shop Steward more than 16 years ago. That work led me to Dallas where I worked full-time on behalf of the Membership answering phones and filing grievances. I served in that position from 2010 through 2012. It was during this time that I began to work with our Local’s Communications Chairperson. 

I came back online in 2012, moving back to Chicago. In 2013 I was asked to assist the Union with Communications where I served in an alternating part time and full time capacity for almost five years, until 2018. During this five year period I was able to work on or lead numerous projects alongside my Communications work. This included video production, a revamped website, new mobile app development including the duty day calculator and eventually chat, increased social campaigns, strategic planning with the negotiating team, technology modernization, and move to the cloud, which we thought would be beneficial for severe weather events or emergencies but became invaluable to maintaining Union services for our Membership throughout COVID. Outside of Contract negotiations, these projects have been our union’s most expensive. But, they allowed the Local to support our ever expanding Membership at any time – even through expansive growth the past two years. During this time I also served on the Union’s Board of Election.

In 2018 I trained my replacements and returned to the line. I was nominated to serve another term on the Union’s Board of Election and I accepted, receiving the highest votes and assuming the role of Chairperson. In 2021, I, along with two other Members, conducted the officer election and convention delegate election. At the end of my term, I returned to the line until 2023. 

Erich Schwenk speaking at a press conference at the Illinois State Capitol alongside state legislators and Members from TWU Local 556 and AFA, bringing awareness to the need for sick leave protections for Airline Employees. A version of the bill would later pass and become law, providing leave for Airline Employees to use their sick leave to care for their families.

Recent Work

In January 2023 I was again asked to assist the Union’s Communication Team and Tech Services Committee, where I’ve worked behind the scenes on various projects from pickets, event registration and planning, to websites, video, and more. Its safe to say that you’ve likely seen my photos or videos. Recently I, alongside Tech Services Chair Drew Kennedy, was tasked with creating the Strike Authorization Vote plan, which was presented to the Executive Board and implemented flawlessly, resulting in a 98% YES vote! 

Now, this doesn’t include political work – just projects and work on behalf of our Membership. On the political side, I ran and was elected as a Trustee (think city counsel) in the Village of Mundelein, Illinois. In my role I serve on a board overseeing the municipal services for more than 35k residents and business, setting policy, budget, negotiating with developers, and more. In my role I must, by law, operate in the public view. That doesn’t need to change when I serve for the Union. 

Erich Schwenk being sworn in as a Trustee in the Village of Mundelein, IL, where he has since been re-elected. 

The Future

Now, let’s look to the future. I want to spend the next three years setting the union up for the next 10 years and beyond. We need to change our Union from operating like a fire department, responding to each crisis, to a well oiled machine that incorporates the daily message into a broader campaign to keep Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants front of mind and top of the industry. We need to switch our planning methods and find a new way, perhaps a scrum or agile approach, to enhance member services and get projects completed faster and cheaper. We must create broader campaigns faster and under budget. Additionally, we need to do all this while listening. Listening to the Members we work for and adapting to their needs, concerns, and overall feedback. While we may be 20k plus strong, we can still be accessible, not just to the loudest Members, but to all Members. We must utilize round tables, pulse point style surveys, and more. Lastly, we need to plan for the next group of leaders. I won’t be at Southwest forever and neither will today’s Union leaders. It’s long past time we create a pathway to leadership training to increase our Union’s operational knowledge amongst those willing to learn. The key is transparency in union operations and planning for our Union’s future.

Don’t Forget to Vote!

As soon as you get your ballot, Please VOTE! All ballots must be received by March 18, 2024 at Noon Central.

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