Apr 16, 2007
Upholding a lower court injunction, a federal appeals court recently ruled that Northwest flight attendants do not have the right to strike against the airline. The federal appeals judges said, “Although this is a complicated case, one feature is simple enough to describe: Northwest’s flight attendants have proven intransigent in the face of Northwest’s manifest need to reorganize.”
But this case wasn’t complicated at all. The flight attendants pointed out that Northwest management imposed pay cuts and work rule changes on them without their agreement and therefore violated their contract and the law. The federal judges said that even if the laws regarding contracts are in the workers’ favor, the bankruptcy laws favor the bosses. And the bankruptcy laws are the ones that count. In other words, laws that favor the bosses trump laws that favor the workers.
Northwest management lied about the company’s real financial condition when it claimed it was bankrupt in 2005 and was granted bankruptcy protection by the courts. Northwest now admits it made 301 million dollars in pretax profits in 2006 minus bankruptcy expenses. It is planning to give its 400 officers and directors 232 million dollars worth of stock when it officially emerges from bankruptcy later this year. But it is proposing to give nothing to the workers.
If the flight attendants are indeed “intransigent,” as the federal judges claim, they are right to be so. Northwest’s “bankruptcy” and “reorganization” has been just another big ripoff of the workers’ jobs, pay and benefits.
The courts clearly protect the bosses no matter what the facts. If workers want to defend themselves against the bosses’ attacks, they will have to do it ignoring the courts and all the laws that favor the bosses.