NWA strikers say
contract proposal won't fly in vote
Big sticking point is
working with replacement workers
Northwest Airline's contract offer that would slash wages and benefits
and eliminate thousands of jobs appears to have little chance of being
ratified, striking mechanics said Saturday.
offer is rejected during an upcoming two-week voting period, the
two-month strike will go on with the company continuing its march to
permanently replace its union work force. If it's approved, the strike
know no one in their right mind is going to vote for that," said Ed
Hoover, a 16-year Northwest mechanic who was out on the picket line
early Saturday morning. "Everybody back at strike headquarters is saying
as long as they are keeping the scabs, they are not going to vote yes."
Members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association who were
interviewed Saturday were solidly against the company's offer, even
though approval would end a labor dispute that has become increasingly
bitter since mechanics, cleaners and custodians first walked off the job
Aug. 19. The airline has since filed for bankruptcy protection.
the ongoing dispute, Northwest urged union negotiators to put an offer
to members for a vote. After the two sides met last week, union leaders
decided to put to a vote a contract they described as containing no
highlights. On Friday, the airline said it was pleased that union
members would get a chance to vote on the offer.
an insult," John Faust, 55, of Burnsville said of the pact.
23 years with Northwest, Faust, who was a maintenance inspector, is
moving to Washington state at the end of the month for a job doing
similar work for an aviation company he declined to name. "The contract
offer shows a lack of respect for us," said Faust, who couldn't stomach
the fact that someone with decades of seniority would work alongside
union members approve the contract, laid-off mechanics could start
receiving their four weeks of severance pay and unemployment pay.
"Whether they vote yes or no doesn't change the overall outcome at this
point," said Harley Shaiken, a labor expert at the University of
California at Berkeley. "The company holds the cards."
airline is operating with outside maintenance firms and replacement
workers representing a fraction of the workers it once had. "Overall,
this represents the destruction of the union, not simply the defeat over
a contract," Shaiken said.
Northwest has hired replacement workers for more than half of the 1,080
mechanics jobs the company plans to maintain. Thousands of jobs have
been outsourced or eliminated. Under the company offer, up to 540 of the
4,100 jobs that union members held when they went on strike would be
preserved. Striking mechanics also would retain recall rights five years
for the jobs filled by replacement workers, if and when they decide to
striking mechanics wanted the chance to vote on an offer and told union
negotiators so. "Quite possibly this could be your last vote on this
property and your opportunity to tell the company and the industry where
you stand," said a message to union members from Jeff Mathews, the
union's contract coordinator.
Smith, 26, a custodian whose job was eliminated, knows what message
he'll send. His vote will be no.
"That's just absurd," he said of the offer. Smith, of Woodbury, had
worked as a Northwest custodian for five years and was making about $20
mechanic Mike Javine got his first look at the contract details Friday
night, he couldn't believe what he was reading. "It was a jaw dropper,"
said Javine, 49, of Savage. He will vote no because he can't imagine
working alongside, and training, nonunion replacement workers. "That's
just not going to fly for me," he said.
Instead, he'll look for another job. "To be bitter about it is going to
hurt me," he said. "I'll just have to let it go, find something else and
not let it eat me up."
NORTHWEST'S CONTRACT PROPOSAL TO STRIKING
About 540 jobs for union mechanics. At the start of the strike, there
were about 3,000 jobs.
cuts of 26 percent.
rule changes that give the company more control of schedules and job
About 580 replacement mechanics will remain at Northwest.
Employees retain seniority rights for five years.
Replacement workers are not required to join the union.
weeks of severance for laid-off workers.
Source: Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association