Monday, August 29, 2005

Peter Rachleff -- labor history professor at Macalester College in St. Paul and a leader of the progressive wing of the Minnesota labor movement-- wrote the following statement of solidarity with Northwest workers who are on strike. Please sign and encourage others to sign. Reply to Peter at rachleff@macalester.edu.

A STATEMENT OF PROTEST AND SOLIDARITY

As union leaders and activists, we want to make it clear that we stand against the behavior of Northwest Airlines management and with the workers of Northwest Airlines and their unions as they seek economic justice.

For too many years, the management of Northwest Airlines -- and other U.S. corporations -- has demanded that workers give more hours, more effort, and more of their lives to their jobs while receiving reduced compensation, less security, and less respect. At the same time, management has taken home fat compensation packages, stock options, bonuses, and golden parachutes.

NWA management is now in the midst of spending, by their own admission, more than $100 million to bust the mechanics' union. They are recuiting hastily trained scabs and employing the infamous union-busting Vance Security company to intimidate the hard-working men and women who have given decades of their lives to Northwest.

NWA management has demanded that mechanics allow the contracting-out of the 53% of their work that remains since management already contracted out 38% of it. Fewer than one-fourth of the mechanics employed in 2000 will continue to have jobs. For those who remain, management demands a 26% wage cut and the emptying of their underfunded defined-benefit pensions into 401K plans tied to the stock market.

NWA management has demanded that flight attendants undergo a 40% cut in their overall compensation. They are seeking similar cuts from other workers and, if they are able to force the mechanics and the flight attendants to accept these cuts, these other workers -- pilots, baggage handlers, ticket agents, clerical workers, and others -- will have little base from which to resist. The flying public will also have many reasons to question the safety of NWA flights.

NWA management's behavior is all too familiar. It mirrors the actions of Hormel, the Detroit newspapers, Caterpillar, Staley, Delphi Auto Parts, Enron, and United Airlines. It also sets the stage for other corporate employers to demand that their workers and unions allow expanded outsourcing of work, accept slashed wages and benefits, and give up the pensions that they have sacrificed for over many years.

This must stop. These actions by NWA management, combined with their abuse of the trust of Minnesota citizens, tax-payers, and state government, make them a suitable poster child for the labor movement's renewed efforts to educate, organize, and mobilize all Americans -- native-born and immigrant, blue collar and white collar, manufacturing and service, women and men, union members and non-union members.

All of us need to say "NO!" to this kind of behavior. NO to union-busting! NO to corporate greed! NO to a race to the bottom of the economic ladder!We union leaders and activists stand against Northwest Airlines' behavior and we stand with Northwest's workers and their unions in their struggle for economic justice.

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