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News Release

Release #03.082
December 1, 2003

Northwest Airlink Pilots Open Strike Operations Center
Leaders Prepare Pilots for Work Stoppage

MINNEAPOLIS --- After Mesaba Airlines management publicly indicated that a strike deadline would likely be necessary to pressure contract talks into closure, Mesaba Airlines pilots opened a strike operations center today in Minneapolis. A strike would impact 600 daily departures for Northwest Airlines.

“Mesaba pilots want a contract, not a strike. However, we are prepared to strike to attain the contract goals of this pilot group,” said Kris Pierson, pilot spokesman for the Mesaba unit of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA). In October, the pilots overwhelmingly (98%) voted to authorize a strike should union leaders call for a work stoppage.

Last week, management at the Northwest Airlink partner requested a release from federally mediated talks if no meaningful progress was made this week in negotiations. The union and management negotiators will meet for three days in Minneapolis to try and reach agreement.

Management’s request is similar to the plea ALPA made to National Mediation Board officials in August to be released from mediation. The release would result in a 30-day cooling off period before pilots could strike. The board has not yet made a formal response to either request.

“Almost 900 days have elapsed since we began negotiations and we are, and have been, at an impasse,” said Captain Tom Wychor, Chairman of the Mesaba ALPA Unit. “One half of our pilot group earns less than $35,000 a year, with starting salaries less than $17,000. This is far less than pilots at other regional airlines who have less experience and seniority.”

Negotiations began in June 2001 and the pilot contract became amendable in June 2002. It was negotiated in 1996 and was extended for two years by concessionary amendments that allowed Mesaba to grow. Remaining open issues include job security, compensation, retirement, and work rules.

Mesaba Airlines operates as a Northwest Jet Airlink and Northwest Airlink partner for Northwest Airlines. Mesaba serves 114 cities in 30 states and Canada from Northwest's three major hubs: Detroit, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Memphis. Mesaba employs 844 professional airline pilots who operate an advanced fleet of 103 regional jet and jet-prop aircraft.

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union representing 66,000 pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Visit the ALPA Web site at

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ALPA CONTACT: Kris Pierson – 612-839-0789