NWA Flight Attendants Fighting Over Who Should Represent Them

As Northwest Airlines flight attendants battle the company at the bargaining table, they're also fighting amongst themselves to determine which union should represent them.

On Friday, the Association of Flight Attendants said Northwest's incumbent Professional Flight Attendants Association snubbed its offer of a truce. The PFAA could not be reached for comment.

The AFA said it had offered to suspend its campaign to woo Northwest flight attendants and provide the PFAA with lawyers and negotiators who have dealt with bankruptcies at United Airlines, US Airways and other carriers.

"There has been no response at all," said Mollie Reiley, one of the flight attendants leading the AFA effort.

The AFA represents more than 46,000 flight attendants at US Air, United and 20 other carriers.

FA President Patricia Friend said she was "horrified" by the PFAA's willingness to accept a deal with Northwest that calls for 22.5 percent base-pay cuts and the loss of some 1,550 jobs. The Eagan-based airline, however, has signaled that the PFAA proposal is not enough.

With the PFAA rejecting the AFA's assistance offer, the AFA will continue its efforts to boot out the PFAA as the bargaining representative for some 9,000 Northwest flight attendants.

"We are pretty close to calling for an election," said Reiley. "If we ever needed to be part of a larger organization, it's now."

She said the AFA could be ready to call for an election in four to six weeks. To get a vote, it needs a majority of flight attendants to sign cards supporting a vote.

Reiley is a former leader of the union, Teamsters Local 2000, that the PFAA ousted a few years ago.

The AFA, Reiley argued, has the political and financial muscle needed to take on Northwest.

"The PFAA is an independent union with no war chest, and it lacks strong ties with other labor groups," she said. "The best thing we can do is get a union that has substantial resources and experience in this area."

The PFAA has denounced the AFA effort to recruit Northwest flight attendants as an extremely ill-timed "raid."

The PFAA ousted the Teamsters as the flight attendants' representative in June 2003, with 4,587 members voting for PFAA and 3,916 for the Teamsters.

Martin J. Moylan can be reached at mmoylan@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-5479.

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