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(en) NorthWest America, Unfinished Business #3 - The Company and the Unions Who Help Them

Date Mon, 17 Oct 2005 05:13:34 +0200


An Anarchist Perspective of the AMFA Strike - A Look Back - NAF and the AMFA Strike
The company is in bankruptcy, the AFL-CIO and the CTW (Change to Win) Federation
have given no national level support for the strike and the International Association of
Machinists (IAM) are currently scabbing the struck work.
At 12:01 AM on August 19th 2005, the Aircraft
Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), represent-
ing both the mechanics and cleaners at Northwest
Airlines went on strike. As of the day of this printing,
the strike is pushing its 50th day. The company is in bank-
ruptcy, the AFL-CIO and the CTW (Change to Win)
Federation have given no national level support for the
strike and the International Association of Machinists
(IAM) are currently scabbing the struck work.
The initial strike was about not giving into the dramatic
cuts proposed to the union. The company wanted them to
take a 20% cut in pay, a loss of workers from 4,400
workers down to roughly 1,100 and a 25% hike in
medical premiums. This action would have caused
the union to effectively be destroyed, so striking was
the only option. NWA spent the last 18 months
preparing for the strike by training replacement work-
ers and getting backdoor deals with other unions to
not honor the picket line.
So what of the other unions? Did they honor the
picket line; did they help shut the company down?
The answer is a saddened no. The pilot union took
more and more cuts as time went on in a desperate
attempt to save their pension, but as bankruptcy set
in, those efforts had failed. The flight attendants
union has suffered the most as the strike went on.
They have lost a majority of their jobs to outsourcing;
they got slammed with huge pay cuts and are on the
verge of losing their union - just like the mechanics.
The flight attendants were the closest union to going
on a sympathy strike, but the vote failed by only ral-
lying 51% support.
The other union on the premises, the IAM was the
union that AMFA originally broke away from. Instead
of putting past politics aside, they stuck with the com-
pany and made a deal with the devil. They promised
not to honor the strike so long as they got roughly
30% of the work back under the IAM. In Seattle,
there were even IAM organizers out the trying to
organize the scab workforce. It's sad to see this type
of thing that only seeks to divide the workers and
help the bosses in the long run.
Ever since day one of the strike, there has been
support from the Northwest Anarchist Federation
(NAF). Some of the good things about that has been
constant picket line support, building community through
relations with the strikers and making direct action possible
within the area we live. We thought that it was really
essential and a big key to have a constant presence
aeolped the picket trust with the strikers - many of whom
this was their first strike and the very first with AMFA.
Seattle was one of the more difficult areas
to mobilize support from outside the union.
First off, the Seattle local is one of the small-
er of the NWA striking areas. Detroit has roughly 600
strikers, Minneapolis has over 1,000 but the rest of
the mechanics and cleaners are spread through the
other 20 or so locals. Seattle started out with only
103 strikers. The AMFA lines were really thin; they
had 4 hour picket duties so they were really pushed
to their limits. So one of the most forefront issues we
had to tackle was getting more people out on the
lines.
After organizing more of a strike support base, we constant
made sure that every Friday or so, we would join the pick-
et line. This was effective in a few ways: First, the
strikers out here felt as though they we getting more
community support. A show of force on the lines can
really do wonders for the morale on the lines.
Second, it serves to reinforce the picket lines.
Slowing down trucks at the main hanger, a larger
presence at the terminal, it all helps to bring more
publicity on a very direct level to the strike by the
mere principal of having a larger show of force.
One of the other things that run along these
lines is bringing in other unions to the support.
This was probably the largest failure on our
part.
With a few of our members in the Industrial Workers of
the World (IWW) it was fairly easy to help bring
about national support throughout all the
shops. We were able to help get a motion passed at
the General Assembly, even if its mostly a paper
show of support, it really did some good to bring
some attention to the struggle within the union.
Other mainstream unions were extremely difficult to
get any kind of support. The main support for AMFA
has come out of Detroit and Minneapolis: the UAW
gave over $880,000 directly to the workers on strike
and a number of other unions have given really direct
support on the local level. Seattle however saw very
little - if any support. The local Teamsters branch
honored the picket line and refused to cross while
the ILWU (International Longshoreman and
Warehouse Union) showed constant support out on the
line. Going to other unions has been a tremendous chal-
lenge that needs to be addressed not only within NAF
but within other organizations as well.
You can expect a full look back and
steps for success in the future. In the
mean time, the strike is still going on and workers are
getting ever closer to losing everything. Do what you
can to really help support this strike and fight not only
for workers at NWA but workers in every industry.
***
Drew is a member of the Anarchist Communist Union
of Seattle, a Local Union of NAF.

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