President Bush on Friday moved to avert a
mechanics strike against Northwest Airlines, ordering a presidential emergency board to initiate a
cooling-off period for 60 days.
Speaking in Sioux Falls, S.D., Bush said Northwest and its
mechanics need time to resolve contract disputes. "This order that
I signed today will prevent any disruption of air service for the
next 60 days," he said.
Negotiations between the nation's fourth-largest carrier and the
Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association were continuing Friday. A
current 30-day cooling-off period ends at 12:01 a.m. EST Monday,
and mechanics had said they would strike unless a contract was
reached or Bush intervened.
Bush noted that several other airlines were in the midst of
contract negotiations with their unions. "I'm concerned about
their impact, concerned about what it could mean to this economy,
and I intend to take the necessary steps to prevent airline strikes
from happening this year," he said.
The president urged the National Mediation Board to ensure that
the parties negotiate in good faith.
The presidential order is authorized by the Railroad Labor Act,
designed to protect the economy against labor strikes, and must be
requested by the National Mediation Board. The board made the
request to Bush last month.
A presidentially appointed board would take 30 days to propose a
settlement, and the parties would get another 30 days to resolve
the dispute. If that fails, Congress could impose a settlement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report