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Find out everything from our Union’s Executive Board structure to my views on electing labor-friendly candidates.

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Our Union’s Executive Board

Who’s on the Board and what do they do? Let’s dive in and take a look!

What is a Union?

A Union is an organized group of workers united together to make their work conditions better. This usually includes pay, safety, work rules, working conditions, benefits, sick leave, or maybe even work/life balance.

Our Union, organized under the Transport Workers Union of America and the Railway Labor Act, includes only Flight Attendants from Southwest Airlines. It’s objectives are to establish through collective bargaining, or negotiations, for wage standards and retirement benefits, shorter hours of work, and improvements in the conditions of employment for workers in the industry – not just at Southwest Airlines.

We’re also charged with promoting legislation and engaging in other such activities deemed necessary to enhance or protect the economics and social welfare of working people, protect and extend our democratic institutions, civil rights and liberties, and to perpetuate the cherished traditions of democracy.

Who makes up the TWU Local 556 Executive Board?

The Executive Board of our Union, TWU Local 556, will be made up of twenty-five individuals, soon to be twenty-six with the addition of Nashville in May 2024. Currently, the Executive Board consists of one president who also serves as the lead negotiator per our bylaws, one vice president, one second vice president, a recording secretary, a treasurer or technically a Financial Secretary-Treasurer, nine board members at large, and finally one domicile executive board member of DEBM from every domicile – keeping in mind that Houston also includes Austin and Orlando also includes Ft. Lauderdale. 

 

Currently 25 and soon to be 26 individuals. Now, when it comes to voting, you will only vote for your own domicile’s DEBM but all other fourteen positions are elected at-large, or nationally by the entire Membership.

What role does the TWU Local 556 Executive Board play in Negotiations?

The Executive Board plays small but VERY important roles in Negotiations. First, it’s important to note that the Negotiating Team is made up of five individuals. The president, two negotiators elected by the Membership at large and two negotiators appointed by the Executive Board. That’s their first important role – appointing negotiators. 

 

Second, it’s tasked per the bylaws with reviewing an agreement in principle. This is an important step where the Executive Board spends usually several days reviewing the agreement with the Negotiating Team and strategic advisors. They’ll have an opportunity to ask questions, and ultimately vote on whether the Membership votes on the agreement as a TA or Tentative Agreement. And just a reminder, any agreement the Membership votes on must pass the Executive Board by two-thirds majority. 

 

Please be cautions of candidates who are running because they were upset with TA2023. While their frustration can be directed to help us achieve a new Contract, I fear they may be running for a position in hopes to change the course of negotiations, which isn’t quite in the purview of any job other than president.

What does TWU Local 556 president do?

The President of our Union is our Lead Negotiator as dictated by our Bylaws.  They also oversee all Grievances, Arbitrations; preside over all meetings of the local, whether that’s an Executive Board meeting, Membership Meeting, or special meeting called for a particular purpose – like a negotiations or TA update. They can also designate a designee to fulfill these responsibilities. They also have the responsibility to staff the TWU Local 556 Offices with approval of the executive board, are the defacto chair of certain committees like the Mobilization and Organizing Committee and COPE or Committee on Political Education. In addition, the president co-signs checks for the local.

What are the duties of the TWU Local 556 1st Vice President?

The first Vice President assumes the duties of the President in their absence and will automatically become president of the Local should the President be unable to fulfill their term. The first Vice President will also assist the President in the discharge of their duties and perform all duties assigned to them by the executive board. While the job description is short, our local has a history of the 1st Vice President taking a large role in our organization to assist the president or fulfill duties assigned by the Executive Board.

What are the duties of the TWU Local 556 2nd Vice President?

The second Vice President of our Local is, per our bylaws, tasked with assisting the President in the discharge of their duties. And, in the absence of the president and 1st Vice President they shall perform the duties of the President. That said, they don’t automatically move up to 1st Vice President or even President in the event of a vacancy. Unless appointed to an opening by the Executive Board, they’ll remain in their position for the duration of their term. Along with the assigned duties, they’re also tasked with performing all duets required by the Executive Board.

What does the TWU Local 556 Recording Secretary do?

The Recording Secretary of our Local has a very large and important task – recording and maintaining correct minutes of all Meetings of Executive Board and all Membership Meetings. They also issue meetings calls and they have a TWU Constitutional duty to receive charges submitted by Members and present them to the Executive Board to consider if they are proper. And like other positions, the Recording Secretary will perform all duties assigned by the Executive Board.

What are the duties of the TWU Local 556 Treasurer?

At our Local we call them a Treasurer but their official title is Finanaiccal Secretary Treasurer and at some locals, smaller locals, the treasurer role is merged with the recording secretary per the TWU Constitution. At our local they’re separate.

 

The treasurer receives all monies paid into the Local Union. They keep regular books and accounting of such finances following the rules and regulations established by the TWU International Administrative Committee. They report monthly to the Executive Board of the Local and to the International Treasurer. They’re also tasked with submitting all records annually to a certified public accountant for review. It’s not surprise that the treasurer signs all checks and is the keeper of the Official seal of the Local.

 

The treasurer at our Local is also responsible for trip pulls, budgeting, managing investments, in the past they’ve managed the office staff, and much more. This is a large role to fill and it should come as no surprise that the Union staffs several individuals to assist. Not Flight Attendants but actual Union employees who assist the treasurer in fulfilling their highly detail oriented duties. 

What do TWU Local 556 DEBMs do?

The Domicile Executive Board Member is tasked with the daily business of their domicile.They’re responsible for reporting all domicile business to the Executive Board and also responsible for all tasks assigned to them by the Executive Board. DEBMs may be pulled full-time for domicile related work or to work on short-term projects as assigned but their priority should remain their domicile.

What do TWU Local 556 BMALs do?

Board Members at Large or BMALS have a pretty short job description – They’re tasked with assisting the Local’s officers when necessary and all tasks assigned to them by the Executive Board. They can be pulled for full-time work or just work on short-term projects as needed. It’s quite a flexible position. 

Additional Questions

I’ve been asked or seen a number of questions online so I’ve added them here for you.

Who is the Board of Election that runs the Officer Election?
As a previous chairperson of the Locals’ Board of Election (BOE), I’ve run an officer election, convention delegate election, been on the board of election for another officer election, and helped oversee contract votes. Outside of the BOE I’ve helped run our recent Strike Authorization Vote and assisted in the investigation of TrueBallot that led to the final acceptance of the results. Unimpeachable ethics have guided me along the way but can firmly say that I understand these elections, and the Board that oversees them.

 

The Board of Election is elected by the Membership. These folks are tasked with creating the rules, accepting nominations, providing notices as required by law, investigating complaints, and more. The Board is nominated at the first meeting after the new board is seated and elected at the meeting following nominations. Three are elected with the chair being the person with the highest number of votes. The individuals receiving fourth and fifth place serve as alternates. Currently, this Board of Election has worked through their alternates and a previous board of election member was appointed to serve.

 

Board of Election work requires upstanding ethics and the ability to maintain a high level of professionalism and confidentiality. I’m grateful for anyone who is willing to serve on the Board of Election. If you want to get involved in our Union’s election process, get involved and run for the Board of Election. Get in touch with me if you have any questions. I’m happy to help.

Should I consider voting for a slate?
This is a great question. Slates can have a lot to offer. They show you right up front that this is a group of people who are aligned in one direction. On the other hand, do they really all have the same views or are they just walking the party line? How will those dynamics change in the boardroom?

Personally, I’d urge you to look at all the candidates. Learn what they have to offer, what work they’ve done for the Membership in the past, how they plan to be involved, and what their views are. Use that information to make your educated decisions. Look, your views may align with a complete slate of candidates or you may think that all but one would be best. All of candidates bring something to the table and a slate may be a powerful group – but personally, I plan to look at each candidate and vote for capable individuals over a slate.

Have you harmed, opted out, sued or stood against your union? Have you supported decertification?

NOPE! To be clear, I’ve never sued, filed charges, or stood against a Member or our Union. Personally, I find serious decertification talk detrimental to our voice at the table. Infighting plays directly into Management’s hands. These discussions are the quickest way to harm the Membership.

Look, if you’re frustrated with your Union, get involved. An organization of this size always needs people. There is always room for differing opinions. Change the Union from within instead of causing further division.

Isn't this just a popularity contest?
Look, it’s true that not a single candidate can know every single Member. Or that us candidates will have a chance to talk with every single voter. With more than 20k Members, it’s impossible. At 20k Members, and even with one minute a piece, it would take 333 hours or 13 continuous days, nonstop, to connect with everyone.

 

It’s also a challenge as a candidate to get your name out there and display your qualifications to every Member. Even a small postcard to every Member is more than $15k. Social Media, videos like this, and the internet are quite helpful. But that doesn’t answer the question – is it a popularity contest?

 

Well, in my opinion, no. There are candidates that have worked hard to get their name out there and to be frank, I don’t think the Membership will vote for them. There are others who have worked hard for the Membership behind the scenes, like me, who don’t have the name recognition. My goal is to be trusted and respected by the Membership, not to be a friend of or be liked by Management. They aren’t enemies, they’re coworkers. We each have duties to uphold. Me, to the Membership. Management, to the shareholders. 

 

But looking at previous elections, I still hold my position – no. Previous results have seen election winners based on major shifts in Membership sentiment. So, given that change – No, it’s not a popularity contest.

 

Have you ever picketed your own local during contract negotiations?
Uh, nope! I’ve seen our own Members outside our own Union office picketing. But I’ve never picketed the local – in or out of negotiations.

Do you vote for labor friendly candidates at state and national levels?
Not only do I support and vote for labor friendly candidates, I AM that labor friendly candidate. I’m going to guess that I’m the only candidate on the union ballot, in any position, to receive campaign donations from Transport Workers Union COPE funds. 

By the way, I won that race and have since been re elected serving my community of almost 40k people by overseeing policy, budget, contract negotiations, and more. My role as an elected trustee has helped open up relationships to other lawmakers at the state and federal level which has given me the ability to communicate our needs as Flight Attendants, namely the Illinois State Leave being expanded for Airline Employees and even issues regarding the assaults won’t fly campaign. 

So, yes, I support labor friendly candidates. I work to get them elected by gathering signatures, knocking doors, having tough conversations, and checking the labor box in the voting booth.

Should the Union hire "professional negotiators"?
This is a question, or often phrased as a comment, that I have heard over the years, especially when a tentative agreement is presented to the Membership. While I get that the Member thinks our Negotiators aren’t professional and that outside individuals might score a better deal, I honestly don’t think it’s true. Also, there’s our bylaws which state our NT is made of the president who is the lead negotiator, two appointed members and two members elected by the membership. So, even if we hired negotiators, we’d still have these five folks with the President leading the team – and usually the one bargaining. 

Another issue is language. We, as Flight Attendants are versed in airline and our contract. Bringing in outside people, who we would have to train and teach a whole different world to, would muddy the waters. Honestly, I’d rather have dedicated coworkers that understand what it’s like to be rescheduled multiple times and who have slept on the floor at Houston Hobby during an operation meltdown than a suit wearing consultant who likely has more in common with Management. 

Will you collaborate with other local unions and labor organizations to strengthen our collective voice?
Absolutely! I’m a firm believer that a rising tide lifts all boats. While generally this term is associated with economic policy, it’s not always so with Labor. A policy change accomplished by one local’s negotiations can help others in a similar struggle. Get that new policy in place at two or three unions, or lets say airlines, and now we’re moving! 

So, while I’ve worked for, and if elected, will continue to work directly for the Members of TWU Local 556, my obligation is much larger – to labor as a whole, as we all should continue to empower our labor siblings, strengthen each other’s voices into one collective voice – Within the AFL-CIO, we’re one Union.

Can you provide examples of your past advocacy for workers-rights?

Many years ago I attended and assisted with the initial meetings of the TWU State Conferences for both Illinois and Texas. These conferences are designed to bring Members from TWU locals together to discuss political issues and a path forward. 

That said, most of my labor-related commitment to workers’ rights has been done within our local, raising the flight attendants’ collective voices. Lobbying state or federal lawmakers for the needs of workers. A stroke of the pen can help our harm worker’s contracts and legislators need to hear from us.

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