Judge Reaffirms Ruling Against Northwest Flight Attendants' Strike

A federal judge who had blocked a strike by Northwest Airlines flight attendants last month reaffirmed that decision on Friday and said a bankruptcy judge was wrong not to do the same.

Northwest applauded the decision, and called for talks with the flight attendants.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero issued a written ruling finding that courts do have the power to stop strikes in situations similar to when he stopped the flight attendants from striking just hours before they were to do so in late August.

In his ruling, Marrero suggested that a bankruptcy judge who had declined to block the strike on grounds he had no authority in the matter had overlooked the "exceptional recognition Congress has accorded to the importance of the nation's interstate transportation system of railroads and airlines."

He said "Congress has gone to extraordinary lengths to legislate its view of the vital role that these carriers play for the economy, national security, movement of goods and people, and general well-being of the United States."

The flight attendants had planned to launch unannounced, sporadic walkouts anytime after 10 p.m. EST Aug. 25. Northwest, already operating under bankruptcy protection, has said a strike could kill it.

The nation's fifth-largest airline, Northwest has about 7,300 active flight attendants. The workers are angry the company imposed 21 percent pay cuts, which they say amount to 40 percent when health insurance increases are added in, as well as work rules they had rejected.

Northwest has said it needs $195 million a year in savings from flight attendants, who have twice voted down tentative agreements. After the latest vote on July 31, Northwest imposed the pay cuts with the permission of a bankruptcy judge.

"Judge Marrero's decision to grant Northwest the injunction allows our customers to continue to book Northwest Airlines with confidence, knowing that we will get them to their destinations reliably," Northwest spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch said in a statement.

"While the court decision is reassuring to our customers, we remain committed to negotiating a consensual agreement with our flight attendants. We hope to accomplish that goal in the near future."