The lawsuit that Northwest Airlines filed against its flight
attendants last week had a sickly familiar ring to it.
The airline's suit against Teamsters Local 2000 charged that the
flight attendants staged an unauthorized sickout over the holidays,
forcing the carrier to cancel about 300 flights.
The suit also sought and won a temporary restraining order to
prevent further job actions.
It was just 11 months ago that American Airlines' pilots came
down with a similar case of the "blue flu" that lasted a week and
peaked over the Presidents Day holiday weekend. That action also
ended up in court, with a federal judge imposing a $45.5 million on
the Allied Pilots Association.
While it's not our place to take sides in disputes between
management and labor, it bears repeating that when all is said and
done, it is the consumer that gets hurt the most in these
In Northwest's case, even the union urged the flight attendants
"to disregard the poor advice that you are receiving from
unofficial and unelected sources to disrupt the company's
operations over the New Year's holiday."
It is bad enough that this latest dispute occurred at what is
traditionally one of the busiest travel periods of the year. But
for it to occur at the height of Y2K mania, when the world was
holding its collective breath, hoping that the doomsayers were all
wrong, seems particularly irresponsible.
As it turned out, New Year's came and went largely without
incident. Most computer systems functioned properly, thanks to Y2K
compliance. Banks reopened as scheduled. And no airline flights
disappeared from the radar screen.
None, except for about 300 of Northwest's flights. But don't
blame the millennium bug for that.