On Aug 19, mechanics, parts cleaners, and janitors represented by the Airline Mechanics Fraternal Association went on strike against Northwest Airlines. Northwest had been asking these union members to accept a contract that can only be described as a vicious attack on their livelihoods.
Their demands include outsourcing of 53% of their jobs to third-party vendors with dirt-cheap labor, on top of 38% of the unions’ work having already been outsourced, and a 26% cut in wages. Meanwhile, the Northwest CEO takes home $4 million and has a guaranteed pension of $1 million and stock options.
Since the deregulation of the airlines in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter, anarchy has broken out in the industry. Low-wage, non-union outfits like Southwest Airlines and Jet Blue have forced other airlines to look for ways to drive others out of business while at the same time giving their workers the smallest possible piece of the pie. Northwest workers are only the most recent airline workers under attack.
In order to preserve the airlines and develop meaningful transportation systems that serve the majority and provide good living-wage jobs, all the airline union leaders need to organize summit of workers in the airline and transport industry and put forward the only plausible demand: public ownership of the airlines under democratic workers’ control
This strike must be won. The attack on machinists at Northwest is not an isolated action; it is a prelude to attacks on other workers at Northwest. At present, unfortunately, the leaders of the other three unions at Northwest (the International Association of Machinists, the Professional Flight Attendants Association, and the Airline Pilots Association) have allowed their members to cross the picket lines. All Northwest workers, regardless of union, need to support the strike, defend the picket line, and shut down the airline.
Labor activists and other concerned workers and young people need to come out and show their support if we are to win this fight. Numerous local unions rallied in support of the strikers. Support committees are being formed in a number of cities. The cause of the striking Northwest workers must become the cause of the entire labor movement.