NWA Mechanics Strike

AMT Editor Joe Escobar talks to striking aircraft mechanics at Minneapolis/St. Paul to get their side of the story.

Sunday, September 18, 2005 – Most people dread layovers, but I was actually looking forward to the two-hour layover I had September 18 at Minneapolis/St. Paul. It gave me a chance to talk to some of the AMFA mechanics that are striking against Northwest Airlines. As I walked up to the picket line, I introduced myself. The mechanics there quickly shared their frustration with the fact that their story is not being told by the mainstream media. I asked them to share with me the stories they would like to tell their fellow mechanics. Here is what they had to say.

Union busting?

There was a feeling of amazement by the mechanics that the company was not willing to budge from their original offer on the table, yet spent millions training the replacement workers that would fill their jobs. They felt that instead of a negotiation, it was a “take it or leave it” stance by the company. The sentiment of the mechanics is that the company was just out to bust the union by any means possible.

The future of their jobs

There were mixed feelings on the future of their jobs. Some I talked to have already given up on getting their jobs back and are looking for jobs elsewhere. Others are waiting to see what the bankruptcy proceedings will mean for them. I must say I was surprised how many mechanics are optimistic that the situation may still work out in their favor.

Tough weeks ahead for Northwest

The mechanics say that the upcoming weeks will be tough for Northwest. As MELs run out and aircraft go down for maintenance, they claim that the carrier will have a hard time keeping the aircraft in the air with the replacement workers it has hired – especially on the DC-9 fleet.

New supervisors for Northwest

An interesting topic was brought up on the topic of last-minute promotions by Northwest. According to the mechanics, in the days just before the strike Northwest promoted many top mechanics to supervisors. They became salaried employees no longer represented by AMFA. They stated that these 11th hour promotions were made to help ensure the knowledgeable mechanics that knew how to run critical operations and equipment like the engine test cells remained onboard in the event of a strike. The mechanics said these supervisors are now working on the floor just as they were before their “promotion” with one big difference – many more hours on the job with no overtime.

Should I stay or should I go?

The feedback on whether or not these mechanics will stay in the industry was mixed. Some have already given up on aviation as a career. One mechanic I talked to said he is going back to school to continue his education. He is leaving aviation for good – tired of all the ups and downs he has seen over the last 15 years in the industry. His family supports the decision, but he admits it will not be an easy road for him. Others expressed their desire to stay in the industry that they love – even in these uncertain times. Some expressed their desire to leave the major airlines and change to another segment of the industry such as corporate aviation or GA. “I know it will mean a pay cut and starting over at the bottom of the career ladder, but I can still do what I love – work on aircraft” shared one mechanic. “I’m just tired of the ups and downs that I have seen with the carriers.”

Another mechanic said he will join the long waiting list at UPS. “I know there is a long list of mechanics trying to get hired by UPS, but I have to give it a try. It seems like UPS and FedEx are the places to work these days if your experience is working on heavy iron.”

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