URGENT: A Southwest Airlines pilot explains why you will not hear anything about vaccine mandates from his union - and why Southwest has more flexibility than it admits to stand up to the White House

The pilot emailed following the first Southwest post today (and provided his SWA ID to prove his identity). He asked that I paraphrase the email.

Essentially, the union cannot organize or even acknowledge the sickout, because doing so would make it an illegal job action. Years ago, Southwest and its pilots had a rough negotiation, and the union would not even let the pilots internally discuss the possibility of working-to-rule (which would have slowed Southwest to a crawl).

But at the moment the pilots don’t even have to talk to each other about what they’re doing. The anger internally - not just among pilots but other Southwest workers - is enormous. The tough prior negotiations notwithstanding, Southwest has a history of decent labor relations, and workers believe the company should stand up for them against the mandate. Telling pilots in particular to comply or face termination has backfired.

Meanwhile, Southwest has more flexibility than it has acknowledged. Federal contracts represent about 3 percent of its revenue, but even the Biden administration CANNOT alter existing contracts (please note, I have not checked this, though it seems reasonable); Southwest is only at risk of losing future contracts.

This pilot believes that the fact that the airlines received $25 billion in no-strings-attached cash for “payroll support” last year (as well another $25 billion in loans) has made them particularly reluctant to stand up to the Biden administration. Southwest’s CEO, Gary Kelly, may be in an especially tough spot since he is the head of the airline lobbying group.

Finally: This pilot says he loves Southwest and finds the crisis painful but feels that if this is the only way Americans can stand up to these mandates, then let the chips fall.