Federal judges are suffocating the right to strike
By Chris Kutalik
Nov 25, 2006, 01:00
From auto parts to carhauling to airlines, employers have used bankruptcies to gut union contracts over the last five years. Now airline union members are beating the drums about another disturbing trend emerging from bankruptcy courts: throwing out unions’ right to strike.
Northwest Airlines flight attendants were angry at the injunction forbidding them from striking, and many thought they should have struck anyway. In September and October, federal judges issued anti-strike injunctions that derailed threatened work actions at two bankrupt airlines, Northwest (NWA) and Mesaba. Lost, along with the threat of a strike, was most of these workers’ leverage in negotiations. Their unions have been scrambling to come up with an effective response.
“The courts seem obsessed with blocking airline strikes,” said Daniel Grey, a flight attendant at Northwest’s Detroit hub. “The line between court and company is further blurred—and it all seems to happen with the blessing of the federal government. Losing the legal right to strike means losing a great rallying force during tough contract negotiations.”
According to David Borer, general counsel for Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents flight attendants at NWA, the NWA ruling took away the union’s most effective weapon. “The immediate effect was to take pressure off management and make the prospect of a new tentative agreement less likely,” said Borer.
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