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Letter to the Editor: Southwest flight attendants angered by pilot's slurs

Editor's note: Southwest Airlines has disciplined a pilot whose profanity-laden rant about flight attendants was heard by air traffic controllers and other airplane crews. The pilot, who was on a March 25 flight from Austin, Texas, to San Diego, made offensive insults about gays, grannies and overweight people, among others. The two-minute rant was caught on an open mic.

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. There is no place in our workplace for any conversation that demeans, insults and discriminates against other employees.

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.

Thom McDaniel
President of TWU Local 556, representing Southwest Airlines flight attendents