Sept. 16, 2005 – Two of the nationâ€™s largest air carriers filed for bankruptcy late Wednesday, raising immediate questions about the future of unions representing workers at both companies and prompting hints of an upcoming battle. Workers for both Delta and Northwest airlines reacted negatively to the news.
Unions at both companies have been quite active lately, with contentious contract negotiations and a strike creating tensions on all sides.
Earlier this week, negotiations between Delta and its pilots appeared to break down over a contract offer that included a deep pay cut and tough concession, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. Northwest recently asked its pilots union to accept a second pay cut in less than a year, as The NewStandard reported.
In twin statements, pilots for Delta and Northwest said they supported their employersâ€™ efforts to right the companies, but warned that a battle could lie ahead if either attempts to use bankruptcy to undermine worker rights. The pilots belong to the Air Line Pilots Association International.
"Despite todayâ€™s filing, the collective bargaining agreement between ALPA and NWA remains in full effect," Northwest pilot Mark McClain said Wednesday night. "We expect NWA to honor the spirit of the agreements it made with pilots who have invested so much in their company."
Mechanics and cleaners with Northwest have been on strike for nearly a month after failed contract negotiations. Recently, the airline stated it was beginning to hire temporary workers into permanent positions.
Wednesday, mechanics union officer Robert Roach Jr. said the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) "was in the process of assembling an army of attorneys, economists and IAM representatives with a wealth of airline bankruptcy experience and resources to ensure our members are treated fairly and their rights protected both in the courtroom and at the bargaining table."
IAM represents 14,200 Northwest workers in a variety of positions, including customer service, plant maintenance and office and clerical work. The union has been in ongoing contract negotiations with the airline for over two years.
If approved, the Delta and Northwest filings will bring the total number of bankrupt US air carriers to four. United Airlines and US Airways are both already operating behind chapter 11 shields.