Southwest Airlines and Local 556 of the Transport Workers Union may owe over $5 million total to a former Southwest flight attendant who was fired for expressing pro-life views to the union's former president.
A federal district court jury in Dallas, Texas, sided with Charlene Carter in a lawsuit she filed against her former employer and former union.
Carter claimed in the lawsuit that in 2017, she complained to then-union president Audrey Stone that union members used union funds to travel to Washington, D.C., in March of that year to protest the anti-abortion views of Donald Trump, who was president at the time. According to the suit, the protest was sponsored by several abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood, which Carter opposes.
In a series of Facebook posts directed at Stone, Carter expressed her outrage about the pro-abortion march, reiterated her religiously-based pro-life stance, and reportedly shared videos which depict aborted babies. She also called Stone "despicable" and threatened that Stone would soon lose her position as union president.
One week later, representatives from Southwest demanded a meeting with Carter. At the meeting, Southwest showed Carter screen shots of her Facebook posts and reportedly demanded to know why she made them. Though she explained her reasons for the posts, Southwest must have found her reasons unsatisfactory because the airline fired her a week later.
Carter worked for Southwest for 20 years but terminated her membership with the union in September 2013 when she discovered that the union was financially supporting pro-abortion groups such as Planned Parenthood, while the practice of abortion violates Carter's Christian beliefs. Though she was no longer a member of TWU Local 556, she had to continue to pay union fees as a condition of her employment. In the lawsuit, she claimed that those fees helped finance the pro-abortion protest in which Stone and other Southwest employees participated.
Carter and her legal team ultimately argued that she had been fired for her religious and pro-life views, and the federal jury apparently agreed. The verdict issued by the jury orders Southwest to pay Carter $4.15 million and TWU Local 556 to pay $950,000.
“This long overdue verdict vindicates Ms. Carter’s fundamental right to dissent from the causes and ideas that TWU union officials – who claim to ‘represent’ Southwest flight attendants – support while forcing workers to bankroll their activities. No American worker should have to fear termination, intimidation, or any other reprisal merely for speaking out against having their own money spent, purportedly in their name, to promote an agenda they find abhorrent," said an excerpt from a statement issued by National Right to Work, the organization which provided Carter with free legal representation.
Southwest, however, disagreed and pledged to appeal the verdict:
"Southwest Airlines has a demonstrated history of supporting our Employees' rights to express their opinions when done in a respectful manner. We are disappointed with this verdict and plan to appeal to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals."