Bleary-eyed negotiators had terrific news to report early Monday in the form of a tentative contract agreement between Northwest Airlines and its aircraft mechanics. The long-sought agreement had eluded negotiators for more than four years and the union was set to strike May 10.
Northwest is the dominant airline at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and is a major player in the state's economy. The Brainerd lakes would have definitely felt the effects of a Northwest strike as well.
Brainerd-Crow Wing County Airport Manager Steve Sievek said a 15-day strike in 1998 basically shut down commercial air service in Brainerd. Even though Mesaba Airlines is an independent contract carrier for Northwest, its planes serve as feeders for Northwest and would have nowhere to go if the major airline weren't up and running. Northwest Airlines sets Mesaba's schedule and ticket prices, Sievek said.
The airport manager noted the timing of the potential strike also would have been devastating to this area, coming just as the airport heads into its busiest time of the year -- the summer months. Resorts and other businesses rely on the air traffic that comes into Brainerd and its absence would have had serious consequences for this region's economy.
The potential disruption in travel plans would have had nation-wide business repercussions as well, since Northwest is one of the nation's largest air carrier. The possibility of a major airline strike was hardly the sort of news President George W. Bush needed as he and his economic advisers were trying to reinvigorate the U.S. economy.
All parties involved, labor, management, customers and affected businesses, can be glad that a strike has tentatively been averted.
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