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Court: Flight attendants at Northwest Airlines may not strike

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Flight attendant
A Northwest Airlines flight attendant.
MPR Photo/Jim Bickal

(AP) - A federal appeals court on Thursday upheld an injunction barring a strike by flight attendants at Northwest Airlines Corp., which is operating under bankruptcy court protection.

      The flight attendants had sought the right to strike after Northwest, with a bankruptcy judge's permission, imposed pay cuts and other work rule changes as it reorganized. Northwest's other unions made pay-cut deals, but flight attendants rejected a negotiated agreement. 

The case put the union and the airline in a gray area where bankruptcy law and airline labor law intersect.

      "Although this is a complicated case, one feature is simple enough to describe: Northwest's flight attendants have proven intransigent in the face of Northwest's manifest need to reorganize," the judges for the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York City wrote in upholding a strike injunction.

"Northwest's flight attendants have proven intransigent in the face of Northwest's manifest need to reorganize."

      All three judges on the appeals panel agreed with the result, although Chief Judge Dennis Jacobs wrote a separate concurring opinion.

      There's another way flight attendants could still win the right to strike. They have asked to be released from mediated talks with Northwest. A release by the National Mediation Board would start a potential strike process under airline labor law, outside of the bankruptcy issues at the heart of the case decided Thursday.

      The Association of Flight Attendants said it was reviewing the 51-page ruling.

      "Our right to strike will be restored if or when the courts lift the injunction, or the NMB releases us from mediation and we complete a 30-cooling-off period without reaching a new agreement," the union said in a statement.

      Northwest said it was pleased, and that its "central goal remains to reach a consensual agreement with our flight attendants."

             (Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)