TWU Local 556 Members, Flight Attendants of Southwest Airlines, Succeed in Advocating the Illinois State Legislature to Pass Illinois Sick Leave Act for Aviation Workers (Springfield, IL) – Corliss King was in Springfield as the executive committee of the Illinois State Legislature voted October 28 to extend the Illinois Sick Leave Act of 2017 to aviation workers. She cheered and celebrated with fellow flight attendants Roy Soria and Suzie Lyons, her collaborators in advocating that aviation workers be included in the Illinois Sick Leave Act to correct an error in the 2017 bill. Now, with the passage of HB 106, more than 35,000 aviation workers in Illinois will have the right to use employer-provided sick leave to care for an ill or injured child, spouse, sibling, parent or grandparent.
“I was caring for my husband, Terrance, who battled end-stage renal disease,” King recalled of the motivation behind her advocacy, tears streaming down her face. “I started this journey for him and I’m going to finish it for him. No one should have to go through that. Not one more family should have to make those choices when it’s available to everyone but us — it’s the ‘that’s not fair’ that motivates me.”
“I’ve earned sick leave through my union contract, and I should have been able to use it when I need it, as should every aviation worker.”
In an effort she described as “truly the little guy winning,” King, who is 2 nd vice president of TWU Local 556, was joined by Roy Soria, TWU Local 556 shop steward and TWU Local 556 member Suzie Lyons, and collaborators including Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drey, AFA, APFA and ALPA. “We brought them to Springfield with us,” King said of the team.
A multi-year mission ensued and, despite delays due to a government shut-down and then COVID, and additional hardships endured by flight attendants during the pandemic, King, Soria Lyons and their collaborators were successful, spelling victory for aviation workers across the state. In May, the group sought co-sponsorship of the bill from a variety of state legislatures, receiving the support of an unprecedented 61 co-sponsors in the Illinois State Legislature.
HB 106 will extend the right to use employer-provided sick leave to care for an ill or injured child, spouse, sibling, parent or grandparent to Illinois workers across the aviation industry including flight attendants, pilots, ramp workers, airline mechanics other personnel who were previously excluded from the 2017 bill.
“I’ve earned sick leave through my union contract, and I should have been able to use it when I need it, as should every aviation worker,” King, a Chicago-Midway-based flight attendant, said. “This issue has become even more prominent during the pandemic, when many flight attendants have needed that time they have earned to care for sick family members.”
TWU Local 556 expresses its appreciation to King, Soria and Lyons, and its gratitude to champions including Illinois State Speaker of the House Chris Welch, Illinois State Representative Joyce Mason, Illinois State Senate President Don Harmon and Illinois State Senator Mike Hastings for their leadership and support of aviation workers.
“This has far-reaching ramifications across the airline industry,” said King, as some carriers extend to all bases the rights that some receive. “So, in addition to aviation workers across Illinois, this will help flight attendants at some airlines throughout the country.”
“To have to fight for something that everyone else gets breaks my heart,” said King, “but today, we celebrate an important victory for aviation industry families everywhere.”
About TWU Local 556
The Transport Workers Union of America Local 556 (TWU Local 556) represents more than 16,000 flight attendants at Southwest Airlines. The mission of TWU Local 556, through collective bargaining, is to provide adequate wages, retirement, and safe working conditions for its members. The union promotes legislation and engages in other activities to safeguard the economic security and social welfare of working people, to protect each member from unjust discipline and to promote the well-being and continued employment of all members. www.twu556.org
TWU Local 556 Members, Flight Attendants of Southwest Airlines, Succeed in Advocating the Illinois State Legislature to Pass Illinois Sick Leave Act for Aviation Workers