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Northwest Flight Attendants Reject Contract

by staff |
October 1, 1999
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Minneapolis, MN - On August 26, rank and file flight attendants rejected a proposed contract with Northwest Airlines (NWA). The contract was endorsed by sell-out Teamsters International President, Jim Hoffa, Jr. Over 69% of the 10,000 flight attendants voted down the contract in this hard fought election.

The Northwest Airlines flight attendants have been attempting to negotiate a new contract for over three years.

Under past president Ron Carey, the International Union provided the flight attendants with resources and personnel to help generate effective rank and file activity.

For the first time, energized and involved members participated in a contract campaign. Contract Action Teams, or CATs, brought hundreds of rank and file members throughout Northwest's far-flung bases together for public actions. These rallies built support for their struggle in the labor movement and among the public.

When Jim Hoffa, Jr., took office this January, one of the first things he did was to fire the CAT coordinators from the International, and hire his lawyer pals to bring 'expertise' to contract negotiations. Reports are that on September 17, the Local 2000 executive board voted 3-4 to get rid of the CAT's.

Hoffa Jr., spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on videos and slick propaganda trying to force the settlement on workers. He failed.

Local 2000

The leadership of flight attendants, Local 2000, was elected two years ago, in the midst of a member upsurge against old guard leaders. But since Hoffa Jr., gained control of the International and undercut the negotiations, some of the local executive board officers have drifted away from the members.

Hoffa Jr., had wanted the ballots counted at the Teamster headquarters in Washington, D.C. Reformers remaining on the e-board forced this contract ballot to be counted with membership oversight at local union bases.

The rank and file opposed this contract, based on betrayal by NWA management. Workers made painful sacrifices to keep the company afloat after a leveraged buyout in the late 80s by financiers Al Checci and Gary Wilson. As the airline returned to a profitable status, corporate thieves took tens of millions of dollars in bonuses and stock options, and refused to give workers a decent raise.

Proposed pensions under the rejected contract would have risen, but too little, and work rules, like the one that pays attendants only for flight hours, not for boarding and delayed flights, would have remained in place.

Last summer's successful pilots' strike, which brought airline management to their knees, resulted in a fair contract for the pilots. Now, other employee groups need to fight for their contracts.

Following rejection of the proposed flight attendant settlement, rank and file activists are gearing up to pressure management, the International Union, and their own local leadership for a fair contract. Major selective disruptions of NWA flight operations are a real possibility in the near future.