From the Loose Cannon, an IAM member at Northwest Airlines:
Live in the Past or Fight for the Future
Negotiations between AMFA and NW are not going well. This should not come as a shock to anyone because NW is absolutely not conducting these talks in good faith. The two sides are not only far apart on the amount of wage concessions AMFA members are going to be forced to take, but they also are far apart on the concept of whether or not NW's AMFA mechanics should continue to exist at all. Recent proposals by the company include the outsourcing of 50% of the total number of AMFA employees working right now. How can contract proposal pass a ratification vote when it includes half of the members becoming unemployed? While Northwest may seem absolutely committed to destroying the AMFA group, they are not the lone targets. Northwest seems committed to break all of its labor groups. Not content to stop with the mechanics, while the potential labor disruption with the AMFA is brewing, NW is recruiting and training replacement flight attendants. Northwest is gearing up to punish the next labor group on its list, the PFAA. What is beginning to unfold on the property of NW right now may be the defining events of the labor movement and airline employees for the next several decades. As the battle looks as if it about to begin, one might wonder what the other major groups on the property are thinking.
With replacement workers being hired in each of their labor groups AMFA and the PFAA appear to be supporting each other as much as possible. The flight attendants will be voting on a sympathy strike in an effort to stand with the AMFA mechanics. There is a link to an article on this below. ALPA represents Northwest¹s pilot group, which already has a contract. Their future for the next few years is not in as much doubt as the PFAA or AMFA. The pilot group has already taken concession of roughly 15%, they have already defined their scope clause for the next few years, and they have already secured a deal to receive NW stock options as incentive to balance what they have sacrificed. (The specifics of the deal are not important to what is being discussed here and ALPA will be quick to clarify any part of this that is incorrect.) It is unclear what if any kind of support ALPA will offer to the people who keep their planes in the sky, they have publicly raised safety concerns with NW. This is in itself at least a kind tacit of support. This leaves only one other group to consider, which is the last other major group on the NW property without a contract, the IAM.
There is serious bad blood between AMFA and the IAM. This stems from the fact that AMFA was born from the decertification of the mechanics group from the IAM. The bad blood also exists between the leaders of both groups and between some of the members as well because of the history of this split. Now faced with extinction on the NW property AMFA has done what would have been considered almost inconceivable a few years ago, it has asked the IAM to honor its picket line. It has asked the IAM for help. The text of the letters both to and from the IAM and AMFA are included in the links below. Robert Roach is the general vice-president of the IAM in his reply to AMFA he leaves the question of support unanswered but seems to delight in seeing the rival union twist in the wind. In a tone one would expect on a elementary school playground, the I told you so he gives brushes aside the request of AMFA's director Delle-Femme. Mr. Roach states: "and now when your organization has the first opportunity in its history to demonstrate this "strength in skill" dogma you preach, you turn to an organization that you have criticized and tried to belittle for more than 40 years."
The IAM seems to be posturing its members towards attacking AMFA rather than supporting it. IAM District 143 president Robert De Pace "Bobby" has also entered the fray. District 143 joined the fight between the two groups by releasing letters to his members accusing AMFA of harassing female IAM members. District 143 also released information that accuses AMFA of suggesting that the IAM members take larger concessions rather than have AMFA take the cuts that NW is proposing. The links to the AMFA letters that reply to these charges are below, and the allegations Mr. De Pace has leveled against AMFA can be found on the IAM District 143 website. www.iam143.org AMFA leaders have publicly denied the charge on concessions and have asked the IAM for specifics on the charges of harassment. Will the IAM let an alleged incident of harassment in one location set its national strategy?
The IAM would be wise to reconsider the tone it is taking and put aside the anger from the past. The company is outsourcing and hiring replacements for the mechanics and flight attendants. What would cause the IAM to believe it is not the next group in the crosshairs of NW, to be eliminated either through strong-arm negotiations or bankruptcy? What is happening now will set the tone for the existence union airline employees for the next several years. This is an escalation in the battle waged on airline employees it is no longer just a fight over financial issues like wages pensions and insurance. It is a battle to eliminate union employees. If Northwest is successful August 20th it will have eliminated the first union group from it's property and will begin to look at the PFAA as the next group.
There are no guarantees about what will happen, only a choice about what is right and wrong.
What is happening to the mechanics and flight attendants at Northwest is wrong. The IAM should show some support for AMFA not just because of the AMFA leaders and it's mechanics, or as a way to secure their support in the future. They should support them because it is both the right thing to do morally, and it is in the interests of its own membership. If Northwest is allowed to break one union it will continue these union-busting practices. Not standing with AMFA or the PFAA is the same as standing with the company. IAM must not relive the battles of the past, but begin to join and fight the battle of, and for, the future. If Mr. Roach criticizes AMFA's strength in skill approach, then he must support the opposite approach, which is strength in numbers. Mr. Roach the number of union employees at NW is dwindling so there is no better time like the present to begin to demonstrate this school of thought. The true enemy driving this situation is not AMFA. Unions are about unity, and of workers all groups at all airlines had better begin to remember this. IAM members must suggest to its leadership that they tone down the rhetoric and support AMFA, either tacitly like the pilot group or more openly like the PFAA.
Otherwise, the IAM may find itself with no one left on the Northwest property to stand with them when they are next to face extinction.
First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me. -- Pastor Martin Niemöller
Click the link below to read the full stories:
Northwest to Fly Without Union Mechanics
Northwest Flight Attendants Vote on Strike
Please click on the following links to read the letters on each site.
August 10, 2005
Letter from AMFA to the IAM re Northwest Airlines: http://www.iam141.org/PDF/amfa.request.pdf
Response from the IAM to AMFA re Northwest Airlines: http://www.iam141.org/PDF/amfa.reply.pdf
August 9, 2005
August 8, 2005