Southwest Airlines and the Transportation Workers Union Hit with Over $5 Million Verdict Over the Firing of a Pro-Life Employee

There is a major verdict in a free speech case out of Texas where Charlene Carter, a former Southwest flight attendant won a verdict of more than $5 million for her wrongful termination after a posting on social media criticizing her union on its abortion stand. Both Southwest and the Transportation Workers Union of America (TWU) (Local 556) are named as defendants. Ironically, the TWU insists that it is “offering working people a voice.” However, it is accused of working with the company to terminate this worker who spoke up against the union.

Carter joined the union in 1996, but resigned in 2013 over religious objections. However, she was still required to pay dues to the union despite religious objections to its policies.

In 2017, Carter learned that union representatives, including its president, Audrey Stone, attended the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. She went to social media to criticize the attendance and funding from Planned Parenthood.

Carter sent some of her Facebook messages to Stone, including some with videos of purported aborted fetuses. She also called Stone “despicable” and said she would be voted out of office.

Soon thereafter, Southwest managers contacted Carter about her Facebook posts and called her into a meeting.  She was shown screenshots of her social media messages and was asked why she posted them.

Southwest allegedly told Carter that Stone claimed to have been “harassed” by her online. She was then fired a week later.

Everything about that account is troubling. Questioning why an employee would post pro-life messages is clearly chilling and would be taken by many as corporate hostility toward the employee’s political and religious views. Moreover, for a union president to contact a company about threats is an extraordinary action that should only occur when there is a clear threat, rather than opposition to policies or support for a recall. Carter was already paying union dues despite her opposition to its policies. Yet, the union is accused of working to undermine her position at the company.

We have addressed an array of such social media incidents, including social media controversies involving academics. In some cases, racially charged comments have been treated as free speech while in others they have resulted in discipline or termination. It is that lack of a consistent standard that has magnified free speech concerns.  We have previously discussed the issue of when it is appropriate to punish people for conduct outside of the work place, including cases where people have been fired after boorish or insulting conduct once their names and employers are made known. (here and here and here and here and here and here).

This case involves the exercise of core free speech rights in opposing the union’s pro-abortion stance. It also involves the exercise of union voting rights and advocacy in seeking the recall of the union president.

It is a curious thing to have a union official allegedly seeking to punish a member for speaking out on an issue concerning the union. Unions were meant to give workers voices, not substitute their voices for approved messages. If Stone truly felt threatened, why didn’t she go to the police? Instead, it appears that she went to the company to seek termination or disciplinary action.

Absent a successful appeal, Carter could ultimately collect $4.15 million from Southwest and $950 thousand from TWU Local 556.

56 thoughts on “Southwest Airlines and the Transportation Workers Union Hit with Over $5 Million Verdict Over the Firing of a Pro-Life Employee”

  1. RE:”There is a major verdict in a free speech case out of Texas..” ‘Southwoke Airlines’ and the ‘Transport Wokers Union’ now convicted members of the Cancel Culture Gestapo. Time to shred the credit cards.

  2. Looks like Southwests union represents its members like a rapist represents its victims.

  3. The right to private property is absolute or the right to private property does not exist.

    The right to private property does exist in the Constitution.

    Private property is distinctly not public property or under the control of any level of government.

    The court egregiously assigns itself ownership of the private property, in this case, the airline.

    The owner of private property is the sole entity with the power to hire, fire, direct, pay, etc.

    The employee is free to accept or reject employment.

    The union has the power to organize and advise employees.

    The owner of private property has the right to deny any and all unions.

    Employees have the right to refuse to be present for employment.

    The owner of private property has the right to fire employees.

    The owner of private property has the right to hire employees, and to hire replacement employees.

    Laws favoring “labor” or employees deny the right to private property, transfer private property ownership to other parties in effect, and are unconstitutional.

    1. So, making that statemant you totally agree that the employer of this woman is allowed to have a sayso on heir private life and her private thinking?
      This because her employer looket and questioned her about her postings..
      You are scary to allow employers to determine what or what not you may write in your private life and on your private time..
      I think you would do well and feel pretty comfortable in China or Russia.

      1. “[Private property is] that dominion which one man claims and exercises over the external things of the world, in exclusion of every other individual.”

        – James Madison

        There is no discussion to be engaged.

        The owner of private property alone holds dominion over said private property.

        The employee/citizen is free to hold opinions and to avail himself of the freedom of speech.

        He speaks; they fire.

        And never the twain shall meet.

        That you don’t like the Constitution or agree with any particular party does not bear.

        There may be a discussion of your potential treason against the Constitution and America, while you also may avail yourself of the freedom of speech.

      2. Individuals determine what they write.

        Owners of private property determine whom they hire, fire, pay, direct, etc.

        Owners of private property are the sole entities that hold dominion over private property.

        1. With that being said, what are your thoughts of CA’s Gov. Newsome now proposing to charge well owners for pumping water from their own wells?

          1. RE:”With that being said, what are your thoughts of CA’s Gov. Newsome…” “Pay close attention…the life you save may be your own!!”

    2. Strangely enough, you see the ‘private’ in private company, but totally forget the ‘private’ in private life and private facebook posts.

      1. I find the reasoning behind the firing abhorrent, however a private company should be able to hire or fire a person for any reason or no reason whatsoever. What I’d recommend to any potential employee is to get in writing at the point of hire that any activities they engage in when not on the clock are not subject to disciplinary measures.

    3. “The right to private property is absolute” “Private property is distinctly not public property or under the control of any level of government.”

      George risking another distasteful confrontation, I worry about your use of the word absolute and recognize government still has a bit of control written into the Constitution.

      Amendment #5 “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

      We both agree that private property is of utmost importance. Half a dozen SC cases exist on this subject, most making sense, but the last major case, Kelo v. City of New London, was a travesty.

      1. 5th Amendment

        No person shall…be deprived of…property,…nor shall private property be taken for public use,…

        Development and renovation increase the value of properties and enhance the general municipal aesthetic.

        Development and renovation are not public use.

        Property cannot be taken for any purpose other than public use, per the 5th Amendment.

        The property in Kelo v City of New London was not taken for public use, but for development and renovation.

        This court is as wrong as the SCOTUS in the 1973 Roe v Wade case.

        That was a trick question, right?

        1. George, it was not a trick question. In my mind SCOTUS was completely wrong on Kelo because it didn’t meet the requirements of the 5th Amendment.

          “nor shall private property be taken for **PUBLIC** use, without just compensation.”

          You had said “The right to private property is absolute.” Though property rights are supremely important they are not ‘absolute’ as you said, and that is why I quoted the 5th amendment. I do not think we disagree. By the way, in other nations such public use provisions are not permitted, and they have to go to extreme measures to do certain things,

          For entertainment, one fascinating dig is in Israel underneath homes going from David’s City to the Second Temple (David and Solomon) in Jerusalem. It provides history of thousands of years ago. There is talking at the begninning, but then they go in the dig, so don’t get discouraged. If you fast forward, you can go backward to understand the history and the dig.

  4. The “$950 million from TWU Local 556.” should be $950 thousand.

  5. For over 20 yrs of my long corporate life I had to work with various unions. Sadly, only a small number of them are in it to protect their rank & file. Too many are power hungry, money grabbing thugs who would gladly work to fire a member whom they felt stepped out of line. All the while, leadership goes unscathed during bad economies or hard times for their members as they ride around in luxury cars spying on laid off members in case they’re moonlighting at non-union businesses so they can feed their families.

    It is hopeful to finally see a case decided on the Constitution and simple fairness so the victim is truly served justice.

    Our perverted “justice” system has to be stopped before we lose it all.

  6. I’m not pro life. I’m a male. I took an abortion pill. The next day I pooped out a small baby.

  7. It’s like Groundhog Day all over. There may be right wing attempts at tyranny but the overwhelming number of assaults on freedom come from the left.

  8. Five million for getting all religious with the union boss!! Party down Christians!!

    1. I’m not sure the issue here is religion or Christian. Perhaps if religion was not mentioned and one simply looked at what occurred when an employee disagreed with a union president over a particular issue that should awaken every union employee and inspire them to recognize that unions only have the employees best interests in mind when it does not conflict with the union’s agenda. Union’s are there to protect employee rights, every employee not just the ones who remain quiet and acquiescent to union policy.

      1. In 2022 and for quite few years, most unions and most union officials have one thing in mind: union DUES. Dues that fuel such unions and union officlals’ political agenda items – and the salaries and perks of being union officials.

  9. Jon, the fallout from the religious takedown of Roe is even worse than could’ve been imagined. This one will keep you busy for awhile. Won’t stop actually until the court is unpacked and Dobbs is reversed.

    1. Or, the normal option, the left accepts the fact that is is against the constitution and that the right saved democarty with this decision.

  10. So many are threatened by freedom of speech. There is a good reason it’s the First Amendment !

  11. Good for Ms Carter.

    Are these people stupid?

    What did the union think would happen.?

    What did SW think would happen?

    Bullies and thugs.

    1. It’s duly noted that you expanded your vocabulary from “lefties” to “bullies and thugs.” Baby steps.
      Hidden (but present) in Turley’s advocacy for free speech was that Carter harassed Stone online which maybe you don’t get to do to a fellow employee you disagree with?

          1. “What would you call those who believe the election was stolen?”

            depends on the year:

            2020: Realists

            2016: Democrats

          2. enigma has it all together but somehow he forgets that Hillary said the election was stolen from her. He just never heard it on MSNBC. The question is does he know that Hillary said the election was stolen but he just chooses to overlook it in his diligent search for the truth?

            1. Enigma wants to ban saying the election was stolen…as he supports Stacey Abrams. That is a liberal in a nutshell, and I do mean nut.

          3. Reallists as to the last election! (Anonymous just said it better.)

      1. Apparently Turley didn’t hide anything. Turley also didn’t hide “If Stone truly felt threatened, why didn’t she go to the police?” Stone wasn’t a “fellow employee”. Stone was president of a union, a public figure. Carter was just doing what Maxine Waters said without any physical confrontation. “The people are going to turn on them, they’re going to protest, they’re going to absolutely harass them.”

      2. enigma: Have you ever been in a union? I have. And it happens just as it did with this woman. The union big-shots run around and spout mostly leftie (just for you) ideology about everything and pretend to represent the will of their members. Then if a member, as she did, objects, why you get them fired. I have seen it happen. So happy she won this lawsuit, but likely will not see the money for years.

      3. Enigma

        Serious question.

        Why do you lefties keep trying to control what we say (see Silberman working on Turley).

        Respect disagreement, but editorializing is just passive/aggressive.

        1. You (to my knowledge) hadn’t used the term lefties in a couple days now? If I knew where to send them I’d have had someone do a wellness check on you to see if you were okay. I never tried to stifle you, I just wondered if you had more words in your vocabulary? I hope you get a Thesaurus for your birthday.

      4. I don’t think characterizing a senior union official’s position and actions in an online forum is harassment, especially given Ms. Carter had absolutely no control over what Ms. Stone said or did.

          1. It’s online which means by definition that it is not the real world.

    2. You are correct. They are nothing but thugs.” White-collar-upper-management-thugs.” I am very familiar with this type. I worked for many years in the Oil&Gas Industry as the HSE Manager. From the local manager at different office locations in Montana North and South Dakota Western Colorado and four different offices in Wyoming and two offices in eastern Montana.

      Then I was promoted to regional HSE Manager AT-LARGE Then I was promoted to Division-Manager HSE-AT-LARGE. Then my final promotion was the VP of HSE-AT-LARGE. I used to have a saying that I used often management absolutely loved one part of it just as much as they hated the other part of it. Here it is. “Part of my job is protecting you field employees that are the reason we even have a company.

      All of you Roughnecks / Roustabouts / Drillers / Welders / Derrick-Men, and all the rest of you that I have not listed. But a big part of my job is protecting all of you from a vindictive nefarious company. Just as much a big part of my job is protecting the company from Malingering, Useless & Dangerous Employees that will fake injuries all the way through in hopes they will get a big pay off because they managed to get a hold of a piece of garbage lawyer that is just as much of a criminal as the employee that’s trying to hurt the company.

      So you see I have a two-fold-position. Over the years, I came to see that most companies Will do everything in their power to not pay off any employee that is really seriously hurt just as much as they will do everything in their power not to pay off a malingering piece of garbage employee. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve been called to testify personal injury trials. Then after I retired I’ve been called up as an expert witness over 2-dozen-times.

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