CHAOS Leads to Very Few Work Stoppages

During a CHAOS strike, like the one Northwest Airlines flight attendants threatened to launch last week, there's very little actual striking.

"It's a very different situation when you threaten to use this tactic with an airline that is not at risk of going out of business," Glass said. "The fundamental problem in this case is that, if CHAOS is designed to bring the company back to the table so it lowers its financial requirements, in this particular case that strategy is not likely to be successful."

Glass said Northwest faces more meaningful obstacles than others in past CHAOS strikes. If the airline backs off the flight attendants' cuts, it must do the same for the other unions. After winning court approval, the company imposed new wage and work rules for flight attendants on Aug. 1. Glass said the interdependence of the deals decreases the chance of any new compromises.

Moreover, since the company is in bankruptcy, it is restricted by financing arrangements with lenders that could be jeopardized by a failure to reach cost saving targets set earlier. Glass said the company in fact could go back to court and seek more relief, such as permission to reduce its flight volume, thus cutting the size of its fleet and work force, including flight attendants.

The flight attendants at Northwest should use caution in their struggle, said Mann, the industry consultant.

"When you do this in a bankruptcy situation, when the company is already withstanding the stress of bankruptcy and scrutiny and costs that that produces, it's even more destructive," he said. "It's very destructive stuff, and it has to be used with very great care."

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