Northwest Flight Attendants Weigh Options

Northwest Airlines flight attendants who want to bolt their current union now have two choices.

The Transportation Workers Union has said it will solicit a mail-in vote by Northwest flight attendants. They've already received cards from the Association of Flight Attendants. A vote in favor of a new union by more than half of Northwest's 9,600 flight attendants would prompt an election.

The attempts to snag Northwest flight attendants comes at a bad time for their current union, the Professional Flight Attendants Association. The bankrupt airline is leaning on workers for concessions, and has said it will ask a bankruptcy court judge to impose the cuts if they aren't negotiated soon.

PFAA has also been buffeted by resignations from its negotiating committee in the midst of the talks. PFAA President Guy Meek didn't immediately return a phone message on Monday.

The TWU acknowledged that the timing isn't ideal when it announced that it would ask flight attendants to vote on whether to join. But Northwest flight attendants have made a "persistent number of requests for us to consider moving forward with an organizing drive," according to an Oct. 7 letter by TWU International Executive Vice President James C. Little.

The TWU already represents Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

"While TWU has negotiated an attractive contract (at Southwest), it has been under a longtime profitable low-cost carrier model and not during economic hard times or bankruptcy," Meek said in a statement issued in response to the TWU raid.

The Association of Flight Attendants announced its organizing drive at Northwest on Sept. 14, hours before Northwest filed for bankruptcy protection. The AFA represents some 45,000 members at 22 airlines, including bankrupt United Airlines.

PFAA has represented Northwest flight attendants since 2003, when it persuaded flight attendants to leave the Teamsters.


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