As the Northwest Airlines mechanics' union (AMFA) moves closer to its August 19 strike deadline, the union is counting on friends from other unions to show solidarity.
But a week before the strike date, it’s not clear if other unions are going to respect the mechanics’ wishes.
Last week, at a rally at the state capitol, the president of the flight attendants union hinted his union would not cross AMFA’s picket line.
“It doesn't matter what uniform you wear,” said PFAA President Guy Meek. “That (practice of) union busting attacks all of us at one time or another.”
But PFAA’s official decision hasn't been made. Union rank-and-file members are voting on a sympathy strike, and the flight attendants may not announce the results of that vote before Aug. 19.
Northwest pilots have not said what they'll do, either. Unofficially, many pilots think mechanics should take pay cuts; pilots already took cuts of 15 percent.
But on the record, a spokesman for ALPA tells KARE-11 that “no decision (about crossing picket lines) will be made until the (AMFA) strike commences.”
Fred Zimmerman, a business professor at the University of St. Thomas, says support from other unions would help the mechanics cause. But, because the airline industry is in such bad shape other unions may see the mechanics battle as a losing one.
“In this particular case, I'm not sure exactly what is winnable,” Zimmerman said.
There's also some bad blood between other unions and AMFA, which is not part of the AFL-CIO coalition. Seven years ago, the mechanics voted to dump their affiliation with the International Association of Machinists, which still represents other Northwest ground workers.
“There's going to be widespread medium blood, at least,” Zimmerman said, because many members of the IAM feel snubbed.
Still, the IAM says – like the flight attendants and pilots – the union won't decide if its workers will cross picket lines until after the mechanics decide if they're going to strike.
“We won't make that decision until we're forced to,” said IAM District 143 President Bobby De Pace.
But Thursday evening, another major union – the Teamsters – was suggesting it will not cross picket lines, in the event of a strike.
The Teamsters union represents UPS workers, who ship airplane parts out of the country to be fixed.
If the Teamsters refuse to help Northwest outsource some work, that could be a big boost to the mechanics union.
By Scott Goldberg, KARE 11 News
(Copyright 2005 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)