Successful Strike Support Rally By NWA-AMFA
Workers At SFO An Important First Step In Building Labor Solidarity
By Steve Zeltzer
NWA-AMFA striking mechanics were joined by hundreds of other other airline
workers and other trade unionists at San Francisco International Airport on
Labor Day 2005. Strike supporters including ILWU Local 10 president Trent
Willis spoke at the rally and was joined with dozens of ILWU member from
Local 10 and 34. Airline mechanics from American Airlines, United Airlines
as well as flight attendants not only joined the rally but spoke in
solidarity. Willis warned the rest of the labor movement that they should
not fail to back the NWA mechanics because the same thing could happen to
other unions. He also said that the unions had the power to shut the airport
down and that might become a necessity.
JoAnne Kazemi, the SFO Base Representative of the Professional Flight
Attendants Association PFAA which represents the thousands of NWA flight
attendants reported that some strike supporters had been furloughed for
supporting the picket line and that NWA was using scab flight attendants
www.pfaa.com. She also said that NWA along was seeking to replace US based
flight attendants on Asian flights with Asian flight attendents at lower
standards and wages. This is already happened with the outsourcing of
maintenance for NWA jets that are on routes to China. They will be serviced
by non-union mechanics at wages substantially lower than US based wages.
The issue of outsourcing was also raised by author and UAW-NWU 1981 Chair
Jack Rasmus. Rasmus reported that over 8 million jobs have been outsourced
in the last few years and many of these were good paying union jobs.
Claudet Begin, who is on the bargaining committee of the independent 17,000
member UC Union Coalition of University Employees reported that their union
was working without a contract and she had won support for the NWA-AMFA
strikers by her union and the coalition of unions at the University of
Most significantly, IAM strikers and union officials joined the rally in
support. Janice Sisco, who is with IAM NWA COFPS Grievance Committee
Chairperson spoke in solidarity and said that all units were threatened by
the attack on the mechanics. She also said that she supported the action of
the Healthrow workers in shutting down the airport in support of the Gourmet
food supply workers who were out on strike.
Also joining the rally was striking IAM 1546 shop steward and mechanic Nat
Courtney. Courtney reported that he and 13 other auto technicians had been
on strike since June 13 when they were replaced by a new owner at Berkeley
Honda. He said that after 31 years he thought he would be able to retire in
a few years but the new owner had refused to rehire any of the union
mechanics in an open violation of the law.
He joined in supporting the AMFA-IAM mechanics and said their struggle was
AMFA District Council 9 President Joe Prisco declared that AMFA would back
all picket lines as a matter of principle no matter what union was involved.
He also read a letter of solidarity recently passed by their local that
their members were in solidarity with striking Boeing IAM machinists and
would refuse to repair any scab work sent to UAL by Boeing.
Absent at this important solidarity rally was the AFL-CIO and Change To Win
leaders in the bay area. SF Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer Tim Paulson
and Alameda Labor Council Secretary Treasurer Sharon Cornu as well as San
Mateo Central Labor Council Secretary Treasurer Shelley Kessler were
conspicuous by their absence. Also the Alameda Labor Council has formally
endorsed the strike after ILWU Local 10 delegate Jack Heyman and UAW 2244
Delegate Carolyn Lund invited the AMFA-NWA to make a presentation at a labor
council meeting. Wanting to avoid a fight at all costs, Cornu told delegates
she had taken a poll of the Executive Committee and it had voted to support
The John Sweeney leadership on August 15, 2005 sent out a memo to every
AFL-CIO affiliated labor council and state body that there could be no
solidarity whatsoever with the AMFA-NWA striking workers. This is obviously
not the sentiment of the workers themselves who see a defeat of AMFA as a
defeat of their own conditions and living standards.
The participation of many workers from throughout the airline industry was
an important sign that in fact the AMFA-NWA mechanics are not isolated from
their brothers and sisters in the industry.
The rally was an important step forward for the newly formed Airport
Workers Strike Support Committee. The committee which helped plan the march
along with Local 9 will be meeting regularly and many airport workers and
other unionists signed up to build support.
You can contact the committee by emailing Jennifer Biddle