Southwest Airlines pilots sue Chicago for squelching free speech

The union representing the pilots of Southwest Airlines (SWAPA) has filed papers in the Eastern Division of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after officials at Chicago Midway International Airport denied ad space to the union, the company said.

The union is seeking to buy advertising space at the airport to place a welcome message to Southwest Airlines shareholders as they arrive in Chicago for their May 18 shareholder meeting while highlighting facts regarding the company´s financials.

SWAPA believes that the City of Chicago has engaged in viewpoint discrimination, as is demonstrated by the fact that Chicago previously allowed advertisements in Midway and O´Hare airports on other subjects, such as animal testing, agricultural policy, and climate change.

Southwest Airlines pilots have been without an acceptable contract since 2012. During that time, shareholders have been rewarded with USD3.1 billion in stock buybacks while the pilot group has not had a raise since 2011. Currently in federal mediation and awaiting an acceptable offer from Southwest management, hundreds of pilots will descend upon Chicago on May 18 to engage in informational picketing both on Michigan Avenue and near Chicago Midway airport.

Located in Dallas, Texas, the Southwest Airlines Pilots´ Association (SWAPA) is a non-profit employee organization representing the more than 8,300 pilots of Southwest Airlines.