Southwest staffers target PR head in quest for raises

AUSTIN, TX: Southwest Airlines' flight attendants, who are publicly pressing their case for raises during contract negotiations, recently targeted the airline's corporate communications VP, Ginger Hardage.

AUSTIN, TX: Southwest Airlines' flight attendants, who are publicly pressing their case for raises during contract negotiations, recently targeted the airline's corporate communications VP, Ginger Hardage.

Earlier this month, Hardage delivered a keynote speech at the IABC's District 5 conference in Austin. The night before, flight attendants pushed flyers under most doors in the host hotel.

"Please remind Ginger that good PR is important, but not at the risk of misleading the public," the flyer stated.

Some flight attendants lobbied for a more visible form of protest, but union leaders convinced them to take a lower-profile approach, said president Thom McDaniel.

The flight attendants just completed their "Summer of Tough LUV" protests in nine cities this August. (Southwest's ticker symbol is LUV.) The union has hired PR firm Tricon Associates.

The airline known for its strong internal corporate culture has been subject to "informational picketing" by the union, which consists of passing out written materials to the public. It's a fairly new treatment for the carrier, which is not used to any aggressive public protests by its employees.

"We have not seen this level of activity in our history," Hardage said.

Each side claims the other misstated details about flight- attendant pay, and the union claims Southwest requested a media blackout.

"Progress can only be made at the negotiating table," Hardage said. "It can't be done in public."

Her team strives to take the high road, responding to union issues as they arise and praising Southwest's flight attendants as the best in the industry.

"We want a contract as soon as possible because we believe our flight attendants deserve a pay increase," Hardage said.

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