The Southwest Airlines flight attendant union will rerun a ballot of its members over a new tentative contract after a number of vulnerabilities were discovered in the voting system, meaning the union can no longer trust the result.
Last week, the TWU 556 union announced that its members had resoundingly rejected the proposed contract, with only 36% of flight attendants voting in favor of the deal.
Shortly after the result was published, however, the union launched an investigation into the integrity of the ballot after flight attendants raised a slew of issues with the voting process, which was arranged by the third-party vendor, TrueBallot.
Amongst the complaints raised, some flight attendants said the system had prevented them from casting a ballot or showed that they had already voted when no ballot had yet been cast.
Following these complaints, TrueBallot reassured the union that was voting system was working as intended, but on the day that the outcome of the ballot was published, the union said it discovered an “irrefutable vulnerability” in the voting system.
During a live video stream of the ballot result, a representative of TrueBallot shared their screen, which displayed an internet URL in the address bar of their web browser. A flight attendant watching the stream copied the URL into their own computer and discovered that the link took them to an unsecured database of the vote.
The flight attendant was able to view the name of everyone who had voted and what ballot they had cast, alongside their email address. The database could even be edited, and ballots could be added and deleted.
“The vendor, TrueBallot, admitted to the executive board, board of election and our attorneys that their system was unsecured, leaving it open to vulnerabilities,” explained the union president Lyn Montgomery in a video message to flight attendants.
“Because of this, the board of election was not able to certify the ratification vote. TrueBallot could not reassure us that there were no other compromises to the system,” Montgomery continued.
TrueBallot contacted Southwest flight attendants directly, claiming that the ballot could be trusted, but the union says it has no choice but to rerun the ballot with a different vendor.
The TWU 556 union is now pursuing potential legal action against TrueBallot and is arranging a new vote, which will take place in the near future.
The recently negotiated tentative agreement between the union and Southwest would see flight attendants receive an initial 20% pay rise, followed by a 3% pay rise for the following four years.
On a turnout of 95% of eligible flight attendants, only 6,635 voted in favor of the tentative contract, against 11,761 who voted against the deal.
Following the compromised result, Montgomery said the union would go back to Southwest to demand more but further talks will require the assistance of federal mediators. The National Mediation Board, which arranges this process, has warned the union that it could take some time to make new mediators available.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.