ALPA Pilots Sue Northwest Management

MINNEAPOLIS—- Northwest Airlink pilots who fly for Mesaba Airlines and are represented by the Air Line Pilots Association, International, have sued Mesaba Airlines management for conduct that breaches the federal law governing collective bargaining in the airline industry.

ALPA filed a lawsuit June 2 in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota alleging that Mesaba Airlines violated the good faith bargaining obligation of the Railway Labor Act by engaging in practices, over two years of negotiations, designed to undermine and significantly protract the bargaining process (read the complaint at ALPA website). The carrier has failed, throughout the negotiations process, to respond to ALPA proposals - or proffer proposals of its own - in a timely manner. It has also taken erratic and inconsistent bargaining positions and, without justification, has proffered substandard and regressive bargaining proposals, contradicting and substantially degrading bargaining positions the carrier has previously taken in negotiations. The carrier’s actions have caused the pilots to conclude that the airline has no sincere desire to reach a new agreement.

The pilots’ complaint also alleges that Northwest Airlink management attempted to subvert ALPA’s representational rights by circumventing the pilots’ union and calling on individual pilots to meet with managers to discuss contract negotiations.

“Mesaba pilots can no longer ignore the tactics of this Northwest Airlink management team,” said Captain Tom Wychor, chairman of the Mesaba pilots’ ALPA unit. “We’ve demonstrated our professionalism both as airline pilots and union members throughout these protracted negotiations, and we are committed to attaining a new contract that reflects our considerable contributions to the success of our airline. Management, on the other hand, has continuously stalled, created unnecessary obstacles and thwarted progress at the bargaining table. At this point, given management’s ongoing pattern of conduct, which flies in the face of any sincere desire to successfully conclude collective bargaining negotiations, we have no other option than to call on the courts to intervene.”

Pilots have been working under a 7-year concessionary contract which was signed in 1996 and gave the airline the flexibility it needed to grow and prosper. Since that time, Mesaba Airlines has attained record profits and remains in a healthy financial position. Pilots began contract negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement two years ago with the expectation that Mesaba management would live up to its promises to pilots and recognize pilots for their significant contributions to the airline’s success. Unfortunately management seems willing to reward only themselves with increases and bonuses.


“ALPA will not allow airline managements to run roughshod over the Railway Labor Act,” said Captain Duane Woerth, ALPA president. “This federal law has served the airline industry fairly for more than 65 years, allowing labor and management to explore real concerns and work together to create mutually beneficial solutions. The actions of this Northwest Airlink management team malign the fundamental principles of good-faith bargaining. ALPA will deploy all of its resources to assist the Mesaba pilots in their struggle to achieve a fair contract.”

Mesaba Airlines provides service to 106 cities for Northwest Airlines. The company reported net earnings of $4.3 million for the last fiscal year, which ended March 31, 2003.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union representing 66,000 pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at