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March 18, 2003
Southwest Flight Attendants Protest over Meal Breaks
Flight attendants for Southwest Airlines are poised to protest a proposal from management that increases their working hours without providing breaks or meals, the Associated Press reports.

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To voice opposition to the proposed plan, the flight attendants on Wednesday will be handing out boxed lunches from picnic baskets at airports in Baltimore, Chicago, and Oakland, Calif, according to the AP.

The airline wants flight attendants to add 2.5 hours to their workday, which would bump the number of hours in their workday to 13. The airline also wants to cut the flight attendants time off.

The Transport Workers Union represents the airline's 7,500 flight attendants. The labor union has been negotiating with the airline over a new contract for nine months, the AP reports.

Portia Reddick, a flight attendant based in Baltimore, tells the AP that the demonstrations are a way for the flight attendants to inform the public about "quality of life" issues.

The attendants have tried to negotiate successfully a deal that would include a 15-minute break during their workdays, the AP notes.

"We think negotiations are proceeding quite productively," Ed Stewart, a spokesman for the airline. "Make no mistake, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we do have the best flight attendants in the industry."

The AP notes the airline has continued to make a profit amid a struggling industry, but the company's earnings fell 53 percent last year. The carrier says that it needs to cuts costs to stay profitable.



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