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Northwest Flight Attendants Threaten Strike

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The AP reports that flight attendants with Northwest will begin unannounced strikes on August 15 at 9:01 p.m. CDT if Northwest does not stop the imposition of a new contract on employees. Questions remain about the legality of such a strike.

Airline law and bankruptcy code may be challenged in court as Northwest 2005 bankruptcy allows new contracts to be established. They believe that not only do they have the right to impose the contract, but also according to the Railway Labor Act (RLA) it is illegal for employees to strike in opposition to that contract. Northwest worker’s union believes that they cannot be compelled to work under a contract with which they disagree.

The Railway Labor Act (RLA) is a federal law passed in 1926 that strove to replace strikes in the railway and airline industry with arbitration and mediation. The RLA prohibits strikes for almost all minor disputes and allows for strikes over major disputes only when RLA’s negotiation and mediation procedure is fulfilled.

A professor of law with the University of Chicago, Douglas Baird, believes that Northwest is taking the best parts of both the bankruptcy law and the airline code in order to force employees to work under terms they may not agree. Baird believes that Northwest does not have the right to require employees to work under certain terms in this a free country.