Northwest Mechanics Talk Tough

On the day when the National Mediation Board told Northwest Airlines and its mechanics union to keep talking, the mechanics provided a preview of things to come if the two sides can't reach agreement.

Passenger John Aguirre of St. Paul, who was headed to Hong Kong, said his sympathies are with the workers. "They get laid off if things go bad, but management doesn't," he said.

Harv Skjerven, a forester from Minocqua, Wis., is unsure about the odds for a strike. But it would be a major hassle for him.

"It would affect me quite a bit,'' he said. "In the summer, I fight fires out west," in Idaho and Montana. And no one provides more flights to those states from here than Northwest does.

Tom Sullivan, a former Minneapolitan now living in Los Angeles, doesn't think the mechanics can stop Northwest from flying, though he's in the mechanics' camp.

"I want safe aircraft,'' he said. "I hope it doesn't come to a strike. I don't know how long they can continue to operate with these huge losses. At some point, something has to give."

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