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Thursday, November 30th, 2006 @ 2:09:51 PM
Northwest Flight Attendants Ask Federal Appeals Court For Right To Strike; Change Union Leadership

The lawyers for flight attendants at bankrupt Northwest Airlines Corp. asked a three-judge panel federal appeals court November 28 to toss out a lower court ruling that bars them from striking while they are in contract mediation talks, according to a Reuters report (CNN Money).

The flight attendants say a preliminary injunction blocking them from staging a walkout is unlawful. But the airline says a strike would be harmful to the traveling public and that the ban should stand, arguing in court papers that it gives the two sides "more time to bargain in a cooler atmosphere."

The union issued a strike threat in July after the contract was voided. Before that, the flight attendants had rejected two tentative contract deals negotiated by their union leaders.

But Northwest, the No. 5 U.S. airline, says a strike should not be allowed because the two sides are in mandatory mediation under the jurisdiction of the National Mediation Board.

The federal Railway Labor Act does not allow strikes during mediations, Northwest attorney Brian Leitch told the judges.

Even though the workers might want to strike, "it's not the law," he said. He said Congress specifically attempted through the Railway Labor Act to impose strike restrictions so as not to disrupt the country's transportation system.

The judges did not say when they would rule on the appeal.

Meanwhile, Northwest Airlines flight attendants, who have a long history of infighting over union politics, decided November 29 to change union leadership for the third time in five months, according to the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune.

Jay Hong, president of the local union council from the Seattle attendants' base, was elected president of the entire Northwest flight attendants union, which represents about 7,300 members.

The new vice president is Andy Wisbacher from the Los Angeles flight base. The new secretary-treasurer is William Ianuzi, an attendant from Binghamton, N.Y., who has worked for Northwest since 1995.

The flight attendants are scheduled to return to the bargaining table with Northwest Dec. 12.

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