The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Government intervention to prevent airline mechanics strike

Feb 19, 2001

On February 9, the government's National Mediation Board "released" the mechanics union at Northwest Airlines to prepare for a strike. This "release" came only after the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association, the union for the 10,000 mechanics, carried out public picketing, saying the board was taking the company's side and holding the contract hostage.

The mechanics have been working four and a half years without a new contract. The old one they were stuck with contained big wage concessions. Meanwhile the company has been reaping big profits.

Nevertheless, even while "releasing" the union for a strike, the board declared a 30-day "cooling off period." It also urged President Bush to prevent any strike, saying a strike "threatens substantially to deprive a section of the country of essential transportation service," meaning the near monopoly of Northwest Airlines at the Minneapolis-St Paul, Detroit and Memphis airports. The Bush Administration issued a statement that it wasn't going to allow a strike to occur.

All the members of the National Mediation Board were appointed by President Clinton. The three person board from the start had a majority of management members. Its chairman, Francis Duggan, was a vice president of the Association of American Railroads; member Magdalena Jacobsen was a labor relations manager for Continental Airlines.

In 1997, Clinton broke the American Airlines pilots strike after 7 minutes by appointing an "emergency board" to oversee the situation. Now Bush is announcing he will do the same thing Clinton did.

When in gets down to basics –like preventing strikes –the only difference between a Democrat and a Republican is whether they smile at you when plunging in the knife.