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Understanding The Railway Labor Act

Fellow TWU 557 Members,

The following information is to help all understand our Contract Negotiating Process. We have direct links on the Website that will explain the process, However, your Board believes that now is also a good time to remind the membership again concerning Contracts negotiated under The Railway Labor Act (RLA). The following information is available on the National Mediation Board's website. It is summarized again here. Please read trough the process and the glossary. If you have questions or clairifications please ask any Elected Executive Board Member. 


Gerald H. Bradley

President TWU 557 Local

Southwest Flight Crew Training Instructors



Section 6:  RAILWAY LABOR ACT Understanding the Process as applied to Airlines

    Negotiations Preparation

Before negotiations begin, the Union leadership works to determine members’ priorities through polling, surveys, union meetings, and direct communication. With this, the Union works to establish unity and consensus and sets the direction for negotiations.

    Section 6 Openers

The Section 6 Notice is a formal, written notice from the parties of a proposal to change the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

    Direct Negotiations

The Union and Management negotiating teams engage in direct negotiations in an attempt to reach a new agreement.

     Request for Mediation and Mediated Negotiations

At any time, one or both parties may request assistance from the National Mediation Board, or the NMB may offer mediation without a request. The NMB assigns a federal mediator to help the parties reach an agreement. The mediator has the power to hold the parties in mediation indefinitely.

    Mediated Negotiations Reach an Impasse

If the NMB determines the parties have reached an impasse, the Board can make a “proffer of arbitration,” which means that the parties can elect to send the remaining open issues to binding arbitration. Both sides must agree to this step before it is taken.  One or Both Parties Can Reject Arbitration

If Arbitration the Mediator can release both parties to a 30 day cooling off period.

  30-Day Cooling Off Period

Intense, mediated talks often involving others from the NMB, in addition to the assigned mediator, normally are held during this period. At the end, the parties are free to engage in self-help.

     Self-Help (See definition below) and Presidential Emergency Board

If the NMB believes that dispute threatens to interrupt interstate commerce “to a degree such as to deprive any section of the country of essential transportation service,” the president may create an emergency board, which has 30 days to examine and offer a resolution. If the parties reject the proposed resolution, a new 30-day cooling-off period begins, after which the parties are free to engage in self-help.


    Railway Labor Act: A Glossary of Terms

 Alternative Dispute Resolution ~ The facilitation of interest- based or mutual-interest negotiations vs. traditional bargaining.

Amendable Date ~ Under the Railway Labor Act, collective bargaining agreements do not expire as they do under the National Labor Relations Act; instead, they become subject-to-change on a certain date.

 Binding Arbitration ~ Both parties must adhere to the decision of the arbitrator.

Collective Bargaining ~ Negotiations between unions (representing employees) and management regarding wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions.

Direct Negotiations ~ Collective bargaining directly between the parties (labor and management) before or apart from National Mediation Board mediation.

Impasse ~ The point at which engaging in further direct negotiations will not foreseeably lead to a negotiated agreement.

Mediation ~ A type of dispute resolution process where a neutral (i.e., a mediator) facilitates agreement between the parties to a collective bargaining dispute, versus imposing a settlement on the parties.

Ratification ~ An internal-union process, usually whereby union members vote whether to approve a tentative agreement reached by union representatives with management officials on a new or amended collective bargaining agreement.

Tentative Contract ~ A negotiated agreement between the parties’ subject to ratification by a vote of union members.

Self-Help ~ The right of a party to a collective bargaining dispute to unilaterally act in its own best interest. A carrier, for example, may lock disputing employees out of the workplace or implement changes in pay, rules, and working conditions; and the union may, as an example, strike.

 Section 6 Opener ~ A formal written notice indicating the intended changes desired in the terms and conditions of employment by one or both parties.

Status Quo ~ Situations under the RLA in collective bargaining when existing pay rates, rules, and working conditions cannot be changed unilaterally.

Under the RLA, the parties must bargain in good faith to reach agreement on contract amendments. There is no set time period for these negotiations and, due to the large number of issues that can be on the table, negotiations can last for a substantial time. Bargaining during direct negotiations is conducted using one of two methods:


  • • Traditional—A method of bargaining in which proposals detailing each party’s wants and needs in particular contract sections are exchanged. These discussions take place “on the record,” which means the proposals and discussions could potentially be used as evidence in future proceedings, such as later grievance hearings, for example.
  • • Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB)—A method of bargaining that focuses more on mutual problem solving. These discussions are typically held “off the record.”

During Section 6 negotiations, the Union cannot engage in job actions, and the Company is prohibited from making unilateral changes to the terms of the contract.


If, at any time during negotiations, either or both parties feel that negotiations aren’t progressing, they can request that the National Mediation Board (NMB) intervene and assign a staff mediator. The mediator does not have the authority to impose conditions upon the parties or decide issues. Instead, the mediator is trained to bridge gaps between the parties’ positions to facilitate an agreement. During mediation, the status quo remains in effect. That means the Union cannot take job actions, and the Company cannot make unilateral changes to the terms of the contract.

Mediated talks continue until the mediator determines that continued talks are unlikely to reach an agreement. At that point, one of the three NMB members becomes more directly involved in the process and evaluates the status. If the mediator and NMB determine that further negotiating sessions are not likely to lead to movement by either party or resolution of the dispute (an “impasse”), the Board will offer the parties binding arbitration to settle any remaining open issues. Both parties are required to accept this offer before binding arbitration can occur. If either party rejects binding arbitration, the NMB releases the parties into a 30- day cooling-off period. Following the cooling-off period, either party is able to engage in self-help.

During this time, both parties must adhere to the status quo. The Union is not allowed to engage in job actions, and the Company is not permitted to make unilateral changes to the terms of the contract. This typically is a time in which both parties work, sometimes around the clock and often with a member of the NMB, to resolve open issues and reach an agreement. Typically, the pressure builds as the 30-day deadline nears. The parties can mutually agree to extend the 30- day cooling-off period if they believe they are close to reaching an agreement and wish to continue negotiating.

When the cooling-off period ends, either party can engage in self- help. For labor, this typically means withholding services by engaging in a strike. However, other types of actions (such as appeals to the public to cease doing business with the carrier and informational campaigns) also may occur. For its part, the employer can lock out or replace striking workers and/or make unilateral changes in work rules, pay, and other terms of employment.


If the NMB determines that a dispute over the terms of a CBA “threatens to substantially interrupt interstate commerce to a degree such as to deprive any section of essential transportation service,” the Board will notify the President, and he/she may create a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) to investigate and report on the dispute. The PEB has 30 days to invesitgate the dispute and issue a report. After the report is completed, the parties enter another 30 day cooling off period to consider the PEB recommendations. If the two parties do not agree to the recommendations by the end of the second cooling off period they are free to engage in self help as outlined above. 



Scheduled Contract Negotiations

Febuary 7, 2020

Fellow Instructors,

TWU 557 Negotiatiors are scheduled to meet with the Company on February 17th and 19th. During January meetings, both teams also exchanged ideas and positions on several Contract Articles. TWU Leadership will keep you informed on the status of Contract 2020 talks as we contiue to work toward an equiable agreement that recoginzes the professionalism and cost advantage which Instructors provide at Southwest Airlines. Simulator training for the return to service of the MAX will test all resources going forward. Your Negotiating team will continue working toward an agreement that will fit within the ever changing Advanced Qualification Program training at Southwest Airlines. Please continue to monitor the member only section of TWU557.org, "Contract 20202 News" for more detailed information concerning negotiations. 


Gerald H. Bradley

President TWU 557

Southwest Flight Crew Training Instructors



Contract Amenable

TWU 557 Members

Please note that the amenable date of our contract clock is now counting up.

Contracts under the Rail Way Labor Act do not expire. The Contract remains in force until changes are negotiated and accepted by both sides.  

Negotiations are scheduled starting January 14, 2020.

State of The Union TWU 557

Ladies and Gentlemen of 557, we close the year with both a greeting and a message.  Our prayer is that you all are enjoying the love of community and family this advent season and that your holiday and the upcoming year are blessed with peace, joy and fulfillment.

     Merry Christmas, Jerry, Jim, Mike and Joe



The State of Our Local Union

TWU 557

Fellow members,

As we end 2019, the Local TWU 557 President is obligated to provide the membership with an annual report on our State of the Union. In compliance with this Constitutional requirement, the following messages are presented for your information.

From Your President:

TWU 557 started 2019 with the hope that an updated contract with Southwest Airlines could be achieved on a timely basis. Both sides agreed, at the beginning, that the current agreement needed to be updated to match how we work under the Advanced Qualification Program (AQP). However, our talks, at this point have not resulted in significant changes. We remain stalemated on Article 6, Scheduling, and Article 4, Compensation. Both Articles have been, essentially, addressed without negotiated change. TWU 557 and the Company are currently scheduled to meet again starting in January of 2020. It is obvious that Southwest Airlines Senior Management does not understand the current instructor training role at Southwest Airlines, nor do they understand our membership’s point of view. Your leadership and negotiating team will continue to represent your needs and interests, for as long as it takes, to achieve an updated AQP representative contract. Look for more information in January. Your leadership remains hopeful that an updated contract can be achieved in a reasonable time frame during 2020, especially with all the public attention to the MAX problems.

During 2019 we had many achievements. Several are listed below.

  1. org, our website, continues to provide one of our greatest services, Schedule Trades and Give-Away. There are over 150 posting requests per month for schedule changes. This method of schedule change has proven to be very efficient and timely. The website is also a great source for Industry news.
  2. The total instructor compliment is now 140 instructors. We still need more.
  3. A professional standard’s committee was established to address instructor professional areas of concern prior to coming to management’s attention.
  4. A Union point of contact for Healthcare Information and other medical needs was also established.
  5. The TWU Executive Board and Negotiating Team took a 3-day course on Negotiations conducted by the National Mediation Board.
  6. An EZ-Text messaging account was set up which can alert all instructors instantly to Company or Union information.
  7. A video update link was established for TWU 557 news on the website.
  8. The TWU 557 Secretary Treasurer attended an International accounting training session, which has significantly updated Local accounting procedures.
  9. The TWU 557 President attended the TWU International President’s three-day conference during March. This resulted in increased communication capabilities with the International as well as improved local relationships.
  • The Local came in under budget for normal business operations during 2019.
  • The Local established a new office location more fitting to our operational needs in January or 2019.
  1. The Local conducted quarterly Executive Board meetings and sponsored two days of member open house forums.

It has been my pleasure representing you as President during 2019. I look forward to your continued support and I sincerely hope as we move into 2020 that our team will continue to help our membership achieve our joint professional goals.

Please read the comments from your other elected Executive Officers.

On behalf of the membership,


Gerald H. Bradley

President TWU 557

Flight Crew Training Instructors

My fellow instructors:

Although our hope had been to have a viable contract before you by this time, we remain confident that we, as a board and Union, are on a path to bringing about meaningful changes to our working agreement. As Captain Bradley pointed out, we have mutually agreed to hold negotiations in abeyance until the New Year. Notwithstanding, we believe that we can demonstrate to the Company that the services that our instructional group provides are, not only different than our competition, but that we bring greater value to the table than they.

As we move forward, we stand in the admirable position of maintaining a unified membership, well organized and researched negotiating team and sound balance sheet. At this time, we represent the largest group of instructors in Southwest Airlines history and provide greater value than ever before.

As a board, our goal is to represent you, our members, with the highest level of fidelity, intentionality and transparency. We approach our resumed negotiations with a sense of optimism, enthusiasm and strong resolve and are grateful for your continued input and support.

Best regards,

Jim Baird

Vice President, TWU 557

Fellow Instructors,

As we close out the calendar year it is also the end of the 2019 fiscal year. We remain in sound financial condition. Our dues income increased over 2018 and was above what was projected for 2019. As was expected our costs increased slightly over recent years primarily due to negotiations. Both our normal operating expenses and contract negotiations were inline with the budget. As is required by our bylaws and the TWU constitution an audit of our recent years bookkeeping was conducted by our CPA with no issues found. I was also able to attend Treasurers training conducted by TWU of America which helped me fine-tune our procedures.

Your board had hoped that we would have reached an agreement with the company on our new collective bargaining agreement by now. As others have stated we still have some work to do to come to an agreement. As we move forward, we will continue to conservatively and responsibly manage the funds that you have entrusted us with. Our 2020 budget will be out for review soon. Both the operating and negotiating budgets will remain fairly constant from 2019. Please feel free to contact me with any questions concerning our expenditures.

Mike Lucy


TWU Local 557



Fellow Flight Instructors, as we begin to close out the calendar year, I wanted to say a few words about where we are as a work group. As your Member-at-Large, my number one goal was to be easily accessible to you throughout the year and to bring any of your concerns to our Board. I have heard from many of you in person and via email throughout the year. I have heard many excellent ideas and insightful perspective on where we should be and how you feel we should get there. As this is my first elected board member position, I now have a new appreciation for how "things work" at the negotiating table. I must agree with our President, Jerry Bradley, in that I do not believe our leadership completely understands the full scope of what we are responsible for as we train new-hires, Captain Upgrades and our CQ pilots coming through annually. Not to mention EET, ETOPS, and other specialized ground school courses. Because there is this disconnect leadership is essentially content with the status quo as they compare us directly to AA, UAL, and DL. Until we can educate our leadership on the value-added responsibility that we bear compared to OAL FCTI's and FO's we will never agree on an apples to apples comparison of job descriptions. We are in this for the long haul and with your support this Board and committee members are prepared to work hard on a fair upgrade to our decades old, band aid fixed contract. You deserve it.


Joe Gautille


Contract 2020 Video #3




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    A multi-target air-to-air weapon and gun-armed close-support missile are among new projects DARPA plans to launch in fiscal 2021. New approaches to communicating in contested environments, attacking signals and countering laser weapons are also on the list.

    The Defense Department is seeking $3.57 billion in funding for its advanced research projects agency in 2021, an increase of just over 3% from 2020.

    Among the projects planned for initiation in 2021 is LongShot, for which DARPA is seeking $22 million. LongShot will demonstrate an air-launched weapon system that will use a slower-speed, longer-range air vehicle for transit to the engagement zone where it will launch multiple air-to-air missiles.

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    If ANY of these systems are being developed on ANY type of computer with access to the internet, or data is sent over the internet to any subcontractors, regardless of supposed security we might as well publish it openly to the enemies of democracy, as they will not only have all the design and mfg data, but will be able to get it operational years ahead of us. When will we learn that we are our own worst enemy, and face up to the need to REALLY keep things proprietary and off the internet!
    Gunslinger sounds like a program where Metalstorm may re-emerge as a viable technology. Forget about a magazine, just install a bunch of pre-loaded barrels, and hey presto you have the ability to achieve rates of fire up to 1,000,000 rounds per minute!
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