Northwest Airlines employees on strike for more than two weeks took their picket line to the streets yesterday during two Labor Day parades...
DETROIT — Northwest Airlines employees on strike for more than two weeks took their picket line to the streets yesterday during two Labor Day parades in Detroit, hoping their presence would help rally support from other unions.
“With the assault on labor right now, it was important for us to be out with all the unions,” Bob Rose, president of Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) Local 5 in Detroit, said in describing the more than 100 Northwest union members, family and friends who showed up to march.
Northwest mechanics, cleaners and custodians have been on strike since Aug. 20. The union local represents more than 900 Northwest employees at Detroit Metropolitan Airport.
Nationally, the union represents 4,427 mechanics, cleaners and custodians, including 123 in the Seattle area.
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Also yesterday, Northwest said it sued the union in Hennepin County (Minn.) District Court to stop members from blocking buses carrying replacement workers.
Union members tried to block buses at three Minneapolis hotels Thursday in an effort to disrupt Northwest’s shift changes. One striker was arrested and cited for blocking traffic.
“While AMFA members are entitled to picket peacefully, Northwest believes that it is improper to engage in actions that threaten the safety of people and property, and interfere with safe operation of vehicles on public roadways,” the airline said in a written statement.
AMFA Local 33 President Ted Ludwig said he was served with the lawsuit late Friday. The courthouse was closed yesterday, and a copy of the lawsuit wasn’t available.
“We didn’t break any laws,” he said. “We worked with police at all locations. If we had broken the law, the police would have put us in jail.”
The mechanics average about $70,000 a year in pay, and the cleaners and custodians can earn around $40,000. The airline wants to cut their wages by about 25 percent as part of a package to save $176 million a year.
It also wants to lay off about 2,000 workers. The cuts would be concentrated among the cleaners and custodians.
Eagan, Minn.-based Northwest has said it needs $1.1 billion in labor savings from all its workers. Only pilots have agreed, accepting a 15 percent pay cut worth $300 million when combined with cuts for salaried employees.
Northwest is negotiating with ground workers and flight attendants, and it has said it can reopen talks with pilots once it gets concessions from the other groups.
The airline has pledged to keep its planes in the air, saying it had been preparing for the strike for more than 1 ½ years.
Northwest is the fourth-largest airline company at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, with an average of 36 daily departures.