Northwest mechanics protest outside White House
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Members of the union representing Northwest Airlines mechanics demonstrated outside the White House Monday to protest President Bush's decision to intervene in contract talks, a move that averted a strike for at least 60 days.
Chanting "no intervention" and "Bush not fair to labor," dozens of mechanics walked outside the executive mansion holding signs critical of the president.
Northwest and its mechanics failed to reach an agreement over the weekend, but Bush's order on Friday convening an emergency board to try to resolve the dispute prevents the workers from striking.
"The appointment by President Bush of a Presidential Emergency Board means that Northwest Airlines will continue to operate a full schedule," said Robert Brodin, senior vice president-labor relations at Northwest.
Negotiators for the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association and Northwest met through the weekend to discuss wages, pensions and back pay, said union negotiator Steve MacFarlane, president of AMFA Local 33 in Bloomington, Minnesota.
But the issues went unresolved as talks broke down just after 11 p.m. Sunday.
As of Friday, the two sides had reached agreement on some issues, including overtime, holidays and vacations.
"Over the last 48 hours, Northwest made off-the-record proposals on all economic issues. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to reach an agreement with AMFA on a new contract prior to the expiration of the 30-day cooling-off period," said Brodin.
Bush noted Friday that the Northwest dispute is just the first of several airline disputes that have the potential of disrupting air traffic this year. Others include United Airlines and its flight attendants and Delta Airlines and its pilots. Also, American Airlines recently went to court to stop work slowdowns by its mechanics and ramp workers.
"I'm concerned about their impact, concerned about what it could mean to this economy, and I intend to take the necessary steps to prevent airline strikes from happening this year," he said.
Darryl Jenkins, with the Aviation Institute in Washington, said Bush's intervention may only delay disruptions.
"June's our big travel season, so we may be postponing this to a worse conclusion and it might have been better just to have gotten it over now," Jenkins said Monday in an interview with CNN. "So, it will be interesting to see how this plays out."
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