The Rat

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As if the airline industry didn't have enough problems, what with pilots getting sick all at once and passengers demanding to be treated like, well, passengers, it looks like things are going from bad to worse. The Rat has entered the fray.

Last week's Northwest Airlines Corp. annual meeting saw labor leaders lambasting management over any number of alleged raw deals and management suggesting that everybody raise their hands before asking questions. Ho hum. What elevated the significance of this particular labor dispute was the presence of The Rat.

As most New Yorkers know, there lurks about town a humongous inflatable rat that mysteriously appears at every important labor rally. The rodent -- roughly the size of an average New York brownstone -- is a sure sign that labor means business.

Up until now, similar airline squabbles have been the concern of the travel industry, ticket holders and the trade press. With The Rat in the game, Northwest may finally get the attention it deserves.

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