Northwest Airlines to employees: go dumpster diving!

As if things haven’t been bad enough for Northwest Airlines employees lately. The company released a pamphlet called “Preparing for a Financial Setback” at some point over the last few months which actually encouraged people to go dumpster diving. To “not be shy about taking something out of the garbage that you like.”

The company later pulled the items out of future materials provided to employees.

Can you really blame the employees for being mad at Northwest? The flight attendants are preparing to inflict CHAOS (Create Havoc Across Our System) starting on August 25th, if they haven’t come to a new agreement, which looks unlikely.

The intent of the CHAOS initiative is to cause random disruptions to service. It could be as simple as pamphlet distribution in airports, to as strong as flight attendants not showing up for random flights. That action could cripple the MSP airport in a hurry, and cause a possible liquidation of NWA.

If NWA were to cease operations, in the short term it could be disastrous for our community. In the long run, though, it would likely benefit us for fares, as it would open this market to airlines such as Southwest – which have traditionally stayed out of airports such as MSP because of the presence of a hub airline which has a lot of influence over fares. However, there will likely be many unused gates unless another airline were to set up a hub, as a significant portion of the traffic through MSP is connecting traffic on Northwest today.

Update (11:30 am):Paul from MN Headhunters has the complete list at his blog.

7 Comments so far

  1. MN Headhunter (unregistered) on August 17th, 2006 @ 11:20 am

    78. Make your own coffee.

    Hell, we should grow the plants too except then we would spend money on water.

    No wait:

    40. Have your water company do an audit so you are not charged sewage fees for water used in your garden.

    I have the list in its entirety:
    Northwest Airlines List Of 101 Ways To Save Money

  2. Joe (unregistered) on August 17th, 2006 @ 12:06 pm

    I think what Northwest is doing to its employees and how they are abusing the system is sickening.

    I’ll never fly with them again.

  3. Nate (unregistered) on August 17th, 2006 @ 4:44 pm

    I agree that it is wrong the way they are treating their employees, but I also think the way the employees are going about everything is wrong. They are soooo close to bankrupcy, and yet the employees say they will strike or create problems unless they get paid more. So, either way, they will be out of jobs. Why not take this opportunity to go to another airline before the mass exodus happens when the airline goes under?

  4. Rohan (unregistered) on August 17th, 2006 @ 5:09 pm

    In fact, Northwest has been bankrupt for a year now, and plans to emerge from Chapter 11 early 2007. The flt attendant work action is likely to affect those plans, depending on how long and how intense CHAOS is.

  5. Heather K (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 7:55 am

    My mom has been an NWA flight attendant since 1969 to present. My grandpa was in maintenance at NWA for about 25 years in the 60’s-70’s-80’s. My aunt was a flight attendant for about 8 years in the 60’s-70’s.

    To understand “why” the flight attendants are reacting the way they are, you have to be sensitive to the history of how this airline has treated them for decades.

    -NWA asked their people to take pay concessions with a promise to pay them back in 5 years (they took the money and never paid it back) all the while they paid their executives millions in bonuses. Millions upon millions.
    -NWA used to pay for pensions, death benefits and health benefits. Those benefits were stripped away a couple years ago which resulted in another pay cut for employees.
    -NWA asked their flight attendants to take on far more responsibility despite paying them far less.

    Did you know that they are now responsible for attempting to resucitate you if you stop breathing on a plane? Or, if you have a heart attack, they need to use a defibrilator on you. They are trained for these things every year. And if there’s a hijacking, they are trained to defend the cockpit or YOU, the passenger, to keep you from harm. Or in a flight emergency, they are trained to get you out of the plane safely and quickly. If you’ve simply thought of your flight attendant as that lady who serves you your Ginger Ale on your way to Dallas, please know you’ve far under-appreciated their job.

    -So, all this responsibility and NWA thinks it’s ok to take someone making $50k down to $40k and then down to $25k? And cut their vacation time in half? And restrict their ability to take the better paying flights (int’l) because they can get employees from non-US countries to work them cheaper?

    NWA should have thought deeper about their business problems when they were paying out millions to Checci and Wilson. Or when they’ve made bad business decisions one after the next.

    After all the years of bad history between NWA and their employees, I understand why many of them don’t care about disrupting the airline’s service and don’t care if they’re going to lose their jobs – at this point, it’s personal. Some people may not agree with what the employees are doing; I don’t think those folks understand what it’s like to work for a company for 20+ years and have your pay and benefits cut year after year while you read in the paper about your CEO’s million dollar bonus check. Not to mention that they want you to take on more responsibility. The “Preparing for a Financial Setback” list this post is higlighting? Talk about your proverbial slap in the face. With NWA, that’s just par for the course.

    As to Nate’s question of why these employees don’t just head on over to another airline right now: flight attendant pay is seniority-based, not experience-based, so someone with 35 years seniority would be cut to beginner’s pay/vacation. Plus, the “newbies” get stuck last in line for bidding on trips, which means they often have to miss holidays/special occasions with their family and have to work more hours. You might see it as a better option than being unemployed but it’s just not that simple.

    My mom doesn’t want to lose her job but I don’t blame her for not voting “yes” to a contract that pays her half. I don’t blame her for not jumping ship just to earn half AND have a tougher job. Instead, she’s exploring jobs outside of the airlines that pay better while seeing this thing through. She will strike if she has to and I’m proud of her for taking a stand.

    I’m sorry for ranting here…this NWA kid has seen my mom/family go through a lot in dealing with this company.

  6. Joe (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 8:46 am

    Smart post Heather! That’s the personal side of this that needs to be addressed more.

  7. Morgan (unregistered) on August 18th, 2006 @ 2:10 pm

    Heather, thanks for the post, you make a lot of good points and help to show things from the perspective of the union members. With regards to seniority vs. experience however (and it’s crippling effects on job portability in the field), isn’t it true that the reason why seniority is considered more important than experience or merit when it comes to to pay and schedules is that the unions have pushed for it to work that way? I can’t think of a single non-unionized industry where seniority is used to determine anything more than possibly the number of vacation days that an employee gets.

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