Northwest mechanics win unemployment appeal

Mechanics who struck Northwest Airlines about a year ago are eligible for unemployment benefits, as long as they meet program requirements.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals says an unemployment law judge was wrong to rule the mechanics were ineligible for unemployment payments. The appeals court says the 25 percent pay cuts Northwest imposed on mechanics constituted a lockout.

Up to 1,600 mechanics could receive payments in about a week. The Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development says the maximum benefit would be a total of more than $13,000. But most mechanics are unlikely to get the maximum payment.

Still, union leader Ted Ludwig says the payments open opportunities for mechanics to train for better jobs than they found after the strike.

"Most people found other work," Ludwig says. "But it's just to get by, pay the bills. If they could get into some retraining program that would be just excellent."

Northwest Airlines had no immediate comment on the ruling.

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