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Thousands Rally in Solidarity with Striking Northwest Airlines Workers

by Brad Sigal |
August 28, 2005
Ludwig with banner: "An injury to one is an injury to all."
Ted Ludwig, President of AMFA Local 33 speaks at the Aug. 27 rally (Fight Back! News/Brad Sigal)
NW workers with "strike" tshirts
"Restructure Steenland's Contract"
"On Stike" T-shirts worn by mechanics at Northwest rally
Sign: If NWA busts AMFA...
Upper right:
Some of the crowd at the strike solidarity rally August 27th. (Fight Back! News/Brad Sigal)
Upper left:
Some of the crowd at the strike solidarity rally August 27th (Fight Back! News/Brad Sigal)
Lower right:
Some of the crowd at the strike solidarity rally August 27th (Fight Back! News/Brad Sigal)
Lower left:
Some of the crowd at the strike solidarity rally August 27th (Fight Back! News/Brad Sigal)

Bloomington, MN - Thousands of striking Northwest Airlines workers and their supporters rallied across from the Northwest hangar at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International airport, Aug. 27. They rallied to support the strike of 4,400 mechanics, cleaners and custodians who are members of the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) Local 33. The strike began on Aug. 19 in response to Northwest’s proposal to lay off 53% of AMFA mechanics - and to sock the remaining workers with a wage cut of more than 25%.

This strike is turning into one of the biggest labor battles of the decade. The blatant union-busting tactics of Northwest Airlines have polarized the state. Corporate executives at other airlines are watching closely to see if Northwest’s tactics work in dividing the workers and busting the union.

On the other hand, the courage of AMFA Local 33 members in standing up to Northwest has galvanized progressive working class sentiment. People have been waiting for someone to stand up and fight back after airline unions have continued to accept round after round of deep concessions.

The big business media has harped on prior conflicts between AMFA and other unions at Northwest, like the International Association of Machinists. They have tried to convince the public that there is little support for AMFA’s strike, based on the fact that a few bureaucratic union ‘leaders’ hold a grudge against AFMA.

But the rally showed the broad support the striking workers have in the Twin Cities community and in the labor movement.

Many Northwest flight attendants were at the rally in uniform and the flight attendants’ union president spoke at the rally. A flight attendant who was fired this week for refusing to cross the AMFA picket line spoke at the rally and called on other flight attendants to join AMFA’s picket lines. Likewise, Northwest baggage handler Kip Hedges has refused to cross the picket lines and pledged to continue to organize solidarity among other Northwest workers.

It was announced at the rally that AFSCME unions at the University of Minnesota are organizing a rally to support the striking workers Aug. 30 at the University Radisson Hotel, where some of the scab workers are being housed.

Many political candidates from the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party and the Green Party spoke at the rally. The presence of so many political candidates at the rally showed that they perceive that there is popular support for the striking workers, even though top labor leaders have remained conspicuously silent and absent from this major labor battle.

AMFA Local 33 President Ted Ludwig said that so far none of their members have crossed the picket line. He quoted from a leader of the historic 1934 Minneapolis Teamsters strike in his speech, driving home that this strike is historic and that more than the usual strike tactics will be needed to defeat Northwest’s determined union-busting plan.