Judge Rejects Northwest's Request to Ban Strike

New York -- A federal bankruptcy judge here today rejected a request by Northwest Airlines to prohibit the carrier's flight attendants from striking, increasing the likelihood that such a strike could begin next week.

Judge Allan Gropper denied Northwest's request to issue a preliminary injunction against the Association of Flight Attendants, which represents the airline's 9,300 flight attendants. The nation's fifth-largest airline, Northwest, of Egan, Minn., has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since last September.

"Northwest management has one more chance," union leader Mollie Reiley said today following the ruling. "They have the choice to either set greed aside for once and agree to a fair and equitable contract, or they will face CHAOS."

CHAOS stands for Create Havoc Around Our System, the union's trademarked strategy of seemingly random, unannounced strikes against specific flights or at specific airports. The union previously set Aug. 25 as the target date to begin strikes.

In response to the court decision, Northwest chief executive Doug Steenland said, "While we are disappointed with Judge Gropper's ruling and will appeal it, we remain committed to continuing to serve our customers professionally and transporting them to their destinations safely and reliably."

On July 31, Northwest imposed terms of a tentative contract agreement that the flights attendants had rejected, setting the stage for a possible strike. The airline is seeking $195 million annually in concessions from the flight attendants in its effort to save $1.4 billion annually in labor costs. The union said the cuts amount to a 40-percent reduction in wages and benefits over the previous contract.