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Lessons of PATCO Lost

Wall Street Journal August 25, 2005
Airline Mechanics Alone In Walkout

...Last month, O.V. Delle-Femine, AMFA's national director, asked for support in a letter to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents 14,500 baggage handlers and other ground workers at Northwest.

The Machinists union flatly refused. "It is about time that AMFA recognizes that it cannot win a major labor dispute standing in isolation," Robert Roach, the union's general vice president, replied, adding that his union "would not be duped into standing with AMFA."

...Since the mid-1990's AMFA has wooed about 25,000 workers from the 700,000-member Machinists union at Northwest and UAL Corp.'s United Airlines, according to Rick Sloan, the Machinists communication director.

"They've always gone after us, and they've always done it in the midst of negotiations," he says, when members are more conflicted, and open to overtures from rival unions promising better contracts.

...Mr. MacFarlane contends some non-AMFA union members are supporting the strike. He says he believes the srike is "going to be a defining moment for labor going forward."

Other labor leaders say the situation at Northwest, because it involves a small isolated union, doesn't point toward the movement's future. AMFA currently represents 16,000 mechanics, cleaners and custodians at eight airlines.

"I don't think that this situation (AMFA NWA strike) says anything about the rest of the labor movement," says Stewart Acuff, national organizing director of the AFL-CIO."

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