Mechanics Reject Northwest Contract
A strike by mechanics at Northwest Airlines Corp. entered its 133rd day Friday with no end in sight, after the rank and file rejected what one union leader called “the worst contract in the history of airline labor.”
The vote was not expected to have any effect on the operations of the airline, which has been flying for weeks with 880 replacement mechanics as well as outside vendors.
Union leaders lobbied against the offer, which would not have brought back any of the 4,400 members who went on strike Aug. 19. Instead, it would have reclassified them as laid-off and made those without new jobs eligible for unemployment benefits.
The contract was rejected 57% to 43% by the 2,223 members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Assn. who voted, the union said. “Our striking members refused to bow down to Northwest’s arrogant, self-enriching management and will continue the strike against this renegade, union-busting airline,” union leader O.V. Delle-Femine said.
He was among the most vocal critics of the deal, which also would have put the strikers first in line for job openings at NWA and would have paid them for accrued vacation time and four weeks of severance pay.
In a Dec. 14 letter to members, Delle-Femine called it “the worst contract in the history of airline labor.”
That opinion was shared by many union members. “I didn’t go on strike for a contract like this,” said Mike Bauer of South St. Paul, a Northwest mechanic for 22 years. Skeptical that he would ever go back, he has opened a home repair business.
Some union members crossed the picket lines. Northwest has said the replacements included 280 strikers and 200 laid-off union members.
Minneapolis-based airline expert Terry Trippler of CheapSeats.com said he was surprised the union didn’t take the offer. “My question to AMFA is what now? What’s the Plan B or Plan C?” he said.
Trippler said the strike remained no more than a nuisance to Northwest, but that might be enough for the airline to offer another deal. “Just to get these people out of their hair, maybe they will sweeten the offer a little bit,” he said.