When Ken Hackett lost his job as a mechanic with Southwest Airlines early in 2017 his coworkers decided to take action. This would eventually include taking up a collection among themselves before starting a GoFundMe to seek additional help. Their efforts would eventually result in $25,000 being collected to help Hackett make ends meet until his situation improved.
It was nearly a year later when Hackett was allowed to return to his job following an arbitrator’s ruling that he was terminated unfairly. The final order was that Southwest was to reimburse Hackett for all wages lost minus any money he had received from other sources while fired.
In the opinion of Southwest, the order was meant to include the $25,000 raised by Hackett’s colleagues. The intent of the airline to deduct this money from the backpay to receive by Hackett drew the ire of the mechanic’s union.
Craig Hamlett, an employee with Southwest that represents the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association Local 11, said in a written letter that the withholding of the GoFundMe money from Hackett’s back pay is an “unbelievable abuse” of the generosity of the Southwest employees that helped Hackett during a tough time in his life.
Southwest Airlines released a statement Monday saying that its calculation of money owed to Hackett is consistent with “customary procedures.” Southwest also says that it is participating in talks with Hackett and the union representing him in hopes that an amicable agreement can be reached. If unable to resolve the issue, Southwest explains that arbitration is an option.
Brandy King, a spokeswoman for Southwest said that the GoFundMe donations received by Hackett will not be a part of current discussions. Hackett’s lawyer said on Monday that he had not been made aware of this new position on the part of Southwest.
Hackett’s firing took place February 28, 2017, after a supervisor says he overheard a conversation in which Hackett was encouraging other employees to refuse overtime assignments.
The situation happened at a time when tension was already high due to the airline’s assertion that mechanics were unaccepting of overtime shifts due to stalled contract negotiations between Southwest and the mechanic’s union.
If the allegations made by Southwest is true, the organized work action described would be a major violation airline labor laws. The union denies that a boycott of overtime shifts ever took place and the dispute has resulted in a federal lawsuit.