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   Vol. 69/No. 41           October 24, 2005  
Striking airline mechanics fight denial of jobless pay
(front page)
ST. PAUL, Minnesota—Up to 75 mechanics on strike against Northwest Airlines participated in a benefit concert here on October 5 at their strike dispatch center. This was followed four days later by a Sunday afternoon hog roast, out of which more than 100 mechanics organized to take part in a day of expanded picketing at the Lindbergh Terminal and Northwest maintenance facilities.

Picketing at all locations was up to the maximum legally allowed. The strikers were asking working people not only to honor their picket lines but to support their latest fight, to reverse a court ruling denying mechanics who have walked out unemployment benefits.

Spirits were high as strikers waved and talked to people in passing cars, gave out flyers to passengers entering and leaving the terminal, and engaged scabs at other locations.

The mechanics’ daily picket lines have also continued to hold strong, despite increased hardships from a seven-week-long strike.

On October 3 an unemployment law judge ruled that the strikers were ineligible to collect jobless benefits because, “the terms were not so onerous that the workers had to leave their jobs,” and that the final contract offer was “reasonable.” This refers to the company’s demand that the mechanics on strike accept a 25 percent pay cut, a pension freeze, and a layoff of half of the 4,400 members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), the union representing the mechanics, cleaners, and custodians who walked out August 19. Northwest Airlines subsequently filed for bankruptcy protection and upped its demands for wage and benefit cuts, not just from the strikers but from its entire workforce.

In a move that strikers say is aimed at creating divisions among their ranks, the same judge granted the cleaners and custodians unemployment benefits.

“Why not us?” asked Tom Nelson, one of the striking mechanics. “Northwest Airlines is trying to make us pay for striking. I think they’ve been putting pressure on the government and this is the result.”

“The inconsistency screams out for an appeal,” said Nick Granath, the attorney for AMFA. Granath said the union is planning an immediate appeal of the ruling against the mechanics.

“I’m making plans to continue this fight,” said Lonnie Johnson, a mechanic with 16 years at Northwest. “Most of my friends who are mechanics are planning to do the same. To date only 40 have crossed. It’s up to us to continue the fight.”

The officialdom of other unions at the company—including the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and pilots—are not supporting the AMFA strike. A number of IAM members and flight attendants, however, have refused to cross the picket lines in solidarity with their striking brothers and sisters.  
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