ST. PAUL (AP) -- Minnesota airline workers rallied at the state Capitol Sunday and called on the government to provide additional assistance to thousands of industry workers who were idled after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Organizers said thousands of families stand to lose health insurance and other benefits because of layoffs after the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
DFL Senators Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton promised the workers won't be forgotten this week when Congress considers bills to strengthen airport security and stabilize sectors of the economy that have slumped since the attacks.
Northwest Airlines will cut 10,000 of its 53,000 jobs, including 4,500 in Minnesota. Nationwide, more than 100,000 workers are expected to be idled.
Union leaders at the rally said the cuts are rippling through related industries. Hotels, airport concessions and companies that prepare in-flight meals have laid off several hundred workers apiece in Minnesota, said Bill McCarthy, president of Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union Local 17. He said that about one-third of the union's 5,000 members stand to lose their jobs.
About 250 people attended the rally, which was organized by the International Association of Machinists and six other unions representing airline workers. The unions outlined a four-point request for federal, state and local politicians who attended the rally. They want health insurance, expanded unemployment benefits, help with retraining and education, and more airport security, said Kip Hedges, president of the machinists association's Airline Local 1833.
They also want more public oversight of government efforts to bolster the airline industry. Congress has approved a $15 billion bailout.
"We want the unions to have a voice in the way that money gets spent so it doesn't go to line the pockets of airline executives," Hedges said.
Despite some resistance in the House, a move is underway to provide benefits for the laid-off workers. Rep. Martin Sabo, D-Minn., said at the rally that there is bipartisan support in the House for extending some assistance to the workers.
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