On Tuesday, a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas ordered Southwest Airlines to rehire a flight attendant the company terminated in 2017 because of her pro-life views.
Charlene Carter, 56, of Aurora, Colorado, had worked at Southwest for nearly 21 years when she was fired after sharing her pro-life beliefs on Facebook and speaking out against the Transportation Workers Union of America Chapter 566 for spending member dues on abortion-related activities.
Carter opposed the union spending dues to pay for transporting union officials to the far-left Women’s March in January 2017. The march was organized primarily to express opposition to then-President Donald Trump’s pro-life views.
Over the summer, a federal district jury in Dallas ruled in Carter’s favor, deciding that Southwest should pay her $4.15 million and the union should pay $950,000. But Carter wanted her job back, so she pressed on, with the help of The National Right to Work Legal Foundation.
“I want to go back, hold my head up high and say, ‘You can’t do this anymore,’” Carter told the Epoch Times. “I’d like to see us bring back what the original Southwest was, or at least some form of that.”
The ruling also requires Southwest to rehire Carter with full seniority and benefits, send a copy of the jury’s verdict and judgement to all its flight attendants and post the documents on internal bulletin boards for at least 60 days, and inform flight attendants that the airline is not allowed to discriminate against them for expressing their opinion about abortion on social media.
“Bags fly free with Southwest. But free speech didn’t fly at all with Southwest in this case,” district judge Brantley Starr said during Tuesday’s proceedings, a reference to the company’s advertising campaign.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the judge limited the amount of damages to $810,180, which includes $300,000 each from Southwest and the union in compensation, $150,000 in back pay, and $60,180 in prejudgment interest.
Carter told The Epoch Times that being a flight attendant with Southwest was her “dream job,” and, until union disputes arose during the last few years of her employment, she thoroughly enjoyed what she did.
But being quiet about her pro-life views is not something she is willing to do, she said, as years ago, she promised God that she would speak out for life after finding forgiveness and healing from her own abortion, which she had after experiencing an unplanned pregnancy as a 19-year-old college student.
At the time, her boyfriend favored an abortion and she feared she would not be able to raise a child. Still uncertain, she asked officials at the Planned Parenthood clinic about her unborn baby’s development.
“At this point in your pregnancy (about 10 to 12 weeks), it’s just a clump of cells … you have nothing to worry about …” she remembered the abortion worker saying. “It’s just basically this round blob of stuff.”
Carter said she realized she had been lied to when, in the middle of the abortion, she turned and saw parts of her aborted baby that had just been suctioned out of her.
For many years, she struggled with depression and believed God was punishing her for what she had done to her baby, she said. Then, at a church event in 2007, she found forgiveness and healing in Christ, and promised God that she would speak out against abortion.
Carter had joined the Transportation Workers Union of America Chapter 566 in 1996 but resigned in 2013 after learning her union dues were being used to promote causes that violate her conscience. However, she was still forced to pay fees as a condition of her employment.
After the Women’s March in 2017, she openly criticized the labor union for supporting pro-abortion politics. And a few weeks later, she posted a video of an aborted fetus on her Facebook page, saying: I want my tax dollars to STOP funding this … PERIOD!!!! This is MURDER.”
Southwest said the video violated its media policy and the comments constituted bullying. Carter was terminated on March 16, 2017, and the legal battle began.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix reacted to the latest developments in the Carter case.
“Southwest and TWU union officials made Ms. Carter pay an unconscionable price because she decided to speak out against the political activities of union officials in accordance with her deeply held religious beliefs. This decision vindicates Ms. Carter’s rights—but it’s also a stark reminder of the retribution that union officials will mete out against employees who refuse to toe the union line,” he said.
“Ms. Carter’s victory should prompt nationwide scrutiny of union bosses’ coercive, government-granted powers over workers, especially in the airline and rail industries. Even after her victory, she and her colleagues at Southwest and other airlines under union control are forced, as per the Railway Labor Act, to pay money to union officials just to keep their jobs,” he added.