Rudy's View: Air Strikes?
It's nice to be back, and I want to thank Tony Kahn and Melinda Penkava for filling in for me the last two weeks while I was on assignment.
I returned to the US this week to find newspapers filled with reports of airline labor problems. Delta, United, American and Northwest all face employees who noticed the fat raises that United pilots snared last fall after many of them refused to work overtime through the summer. That settlement fueled the desire for meaningful raises at other airlines. The good news is that to strike, workers must follow an elaborate script that involves mandatory mediation. Only if a mediator declares an impasse is a strike possible, and it must follow a "30-day cooling down period" that at least gives the flying public some warning of trouble on the horizon.
The most immediate threat of a walk out comes from Northwest mechanics whose talks have been declared at an impasse and whose 30-day waiting period ends next Sunday, March 11. The good news is, management and workers have agreed to resume talks on Wednesday. And President Bush has already indicated he doesn't want a major US airline to shut down, so he'd convene a 60-day emergency board to try to solve the crisis. That would mean no strike until mid-May at the earliest.
If you're making summer travel plans now, should you avoid Northwest, Delta, American and United? I think it's too soon to do that. And, by the way, those four represent more than half of today's major airlines - only Continental, US Airways, and Southwest among the major carriers aren't facing the threat of strikes. So keep up on the news - and keep your fingers crossed.
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