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Union Struggles at Northwest Airlines
The battle being waged at Northwest Airlines (NWA) by the independent Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA) and its supporters started with a strike on August 20. Northwests management has put pressure on the 4,400 strikers, pushing demands as the weeks progress towards what a company spokesperson called, a permanent solution for that segment of the workforce.
Talks broke down September 11 after NWA pushed a proposal that AMFA Local 5 member Curt Booza characterized as an attempt to completely eliminate us from the property. NWA began moves to permanently replace strikers on September 13. Shifting from its original proposal to cut over half of its 4,400 AMFA jobs (including all of the lower-paid cleaner jobs that employ a greater percentage of women and people of color), NWA then demanded a 75 percent job reduction.
Highlighting fears that larger givebacks would spread beyond the mechanics union, AMFA negotiator Jeff Mathews observed that NWA had raised its goal for wage and benefit concessions for all its unions from $1.1 billion to $1.4 billion. According to Mathews, Some groups, including the IAM [International Association of Machinists], may be asked to shoulder a disproportionately larger share of the new target amount. Despite mounting pressure, morale remains high. A month into the strike, only ten AMFA members had crossed the lines. In places where AMFA locals are active and cross-union support was organized, rallies, fundraisers, and other actions have kept spirits relatively up.
Hearts and Minds
In other unions, sharp divisions have developed over the strike, pitting irate rank and filers and local officers against international leaders who have either refused to endorse or actively undermined strike support efforts. Cross-union solidarity efforts in Detroit, Minneapolis, and San Francisco have run into such resistance. In the lead-up to the strike deadline, local labor bodies were explicitly ordered by the AFL-CIO not to participate in any efforts to assist strikers. In an August 15 memo, AFL-CIO Collective Bargaining Department Director Rick Bank ordered state federations and central labor councils not to organize or support boycotts, food banks, relief funds, or turnout at AMFA picket lines or rallies without the permission of the national AFL-CIO. Local bodies were further told that they have no power or authority to instruct affiliates to honor picket lines. All requests to honor pickets were to be referred to the two AFL-CIO unions still working at NWA: the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Machinists union (IAM).
Alarmed by what they see as a potential major defeat for the labor movement, many unionists have been backing the strike despite the ban. While some hold criticisms of AMFA as a craft-oriented union with a history of decertification battles with AFL-CIO unions, many of these critics also maintain that the stakes are high enough to warrant throwing support behind the strikers.
They point to the use of permanent replacements (which havent been seen in airlines since the 1989 Eastern Airlines strike), the deteriorating situation for all airline unions since 9/11, and the recent AFL-CIO split as reasons to support the strike. If we dont [get behind the strikers], it shows that we havent learned a lesson from PATCO and on, said Al Benchich, president of UAW Local 909 and co-chair of Southeast Michigan Jobs with Justice. If we dont stand together, were going to fall as individuals.
In a boost for the strikers, the UAW International donated $880,000 from its strike fund. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger said, Northwest Airlines behavior toward AMFA is blatant union busting and an insult to every American worker. The UAW is proud to offer this support to AMFA members.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, the Aircraft Engineers International, the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (the union that represents FAA inspectors), the newly-formed Minnesota Change to Win Coalition (state affiliates of SEIU, Teamsters, UFCW, UNITE HERE, Laborers, and the Carpenters), four central labor councils (in Michigan, California, and Oregon), and a number of UAW locals have announced support for the strikers. Additionally, UNITE HERE and Steelworkers District 2 have stopped flying Northwest.
IBEW International leaders intervened the day before the fund- raiser, demanding that the local lock its doors for the weekend. Organizers scrambled to reschedule, moving the event to two local bars that had been used as support bases during the newspaper strike. Despite IBEWs interference, over 150 local activists attended and $3,900 was raised. Strikers also took their message to Labor Day events. UAW Region 1-A invited hundreds of AMFA Local 5 members and their families to march in its contingent in Detroits Labor Day march. Marching UAW, AFSCME, SEIU, NALC, APWU, and CWA members gave a warm response to strike supporters handing out leaflets and collecting money around a sound truck parked on the parade route.
Nearly 200 rallied in a symbolic picket at a local casino near the parades end, with signs saying, Dont Gamble with NWA. AMFA Local 5 President Bob Rose called the Labor Day action a shot in the arm.
Besides building outside support, strikers have been trying to broaden their fight from the well-controlled airport picket lines. A group of 20 Local 5 members drove to the CSX railyard in Toledo and set up pickets on September 6. Ninety-five percent of the yards Detroit-bound freight traffic was snarled after Teamster engineers and rail workers refused to cross the picket. Teamsters returned to work only after CSX won a court order on September 8 that mandated that they cross the line. AMFA members traveled to the Jobs with Justice conference and the Change to Win convention in St. Louis at the end of September to network and rally labor activists and leaders to their cause.
Although NWA has consistently claimed that the strike has not affected its operations, the airline filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy (along with another major carrier, Delta) on September 14. Rising fuel costs (spiked by Hurricane Katrina) and the effects of the strike (sliding on-time flight performance, declining ticket revenues, and the $101 million price tag for NWAs union-busting strategy) led to losses estimated at $350-400 million in the third quarter.
Bankruptcy is a wild card for the strikers. U.S. Air and United were able to use bankruptcy courts to force open contracts and extract hundreds of millions of dollars in concessions. AMFA leaders, however, see little to lose in the courts.
With the bankruptcy, strikers see the potential for a larger fight that would pull in other unions as NWA pushes even harder for concessions. If one or more of the unions representing flight attendants, pilots, or ramp and gate agents are drawn in, there is the chance that they may end up on the picket lines themselves. A broader strike involving flight crews could raise pressure on the company by grounding many of its flights. Commenting on the need for urgent action, the Airline Workers News Service wrote: Time is running out. If union members in the [Professional Flight Attendant Association] and IAM do not act soon to aid mechanics, cleaners and custodians, Northwest will simply dictate terms and destroy unions, contracts, and livelihoods. The question is: will these unions act and will it be enough?
Chris Kutalik is currently co-editor of Labor Notes in Detroit. He was also a local officer in Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1549 in Austin, Texas.
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AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.