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Northwest Flight Attendants Assert Right To Strike

Date: April 3, 2007

Washington, DC - Northwest Airlines flight attendants, represented by the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA) today announced plans to escalate their legal battle to restore their right to strike. Union leaders announced that AFA-CWA will petition the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit for an en banc review of the ruling issued last week by a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court. That ruling upheld a strike injunction ordered last year by U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero.

If the union's petition is granted, the case would be reheard by a majority of the judges on the 2nd Circuit bench. The Court sitting en banc has the authority to overrule the decision of the three-judge panel.

"This business-friendly environment within our judicial system has run rampant and, in the process, has stripped millions of workers of their right to stand up for themselves in the face of corporate greed," said Patricia Friend, AFA-CWA International President.  "We have an extraordinary case before us, one that clearly warrants reconsideration, and whose outcome will affect the rights of workers throughout the airline and railroad industries."

On March 29, the Appellate Court upheld a previous district court injunction, ruling that the rejection of a collective bargaining agreement under current bankruptcy law does not constitute a breach of that agreement nor a violation of the Railway Labor Act. In what can best be described as a unique approach to the law, the Court found that when Northwest management rejected the flight attendants agreement, it did not breach the agreement.  Instead, it found that the rejection of the contract and the imposition of drastic wage and benefit cuts resulted in an annulment of the agreement, as if the contract never existed.  Therefore, Northwest could not breach a non-existent contract.

"When Congress established Section 1113 of the bankruptcy code, it did so to protect union-represented employees," said Friend.  "Congress recognized - from the time of Frank Lorenzo and his abuse of the bankruptcy laws at Continental Airlines - that employers would use the right to reject a union contract in bankruptcy as a means to undermine organized labor. The 2nd Circuit decision - if allowed to stand - achieves exactly what Congress sought to prevent."

For over 60 years, the Association of Flight Attendants has been serving as the voice for flight attendants in the workplace, in the aviation industry, in the media and on Capitol Hill.  More than 55,000 flight attendants at 20 airlines come together to form AFA-CWA, the world's largest flight attendant union. AFA is part of the 700,000-member strong Communications Workers of America (CWA), AFL-CIO. Visit us at www.afanet.org.

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