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CNN Today

Four Major Airlines Facing Labor Problems in Coming Weeks

Aired February 9, 2001 - 4:33 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We'll get more on possible trouble ahead for the major airlines. Delta, United, Northwest, and American all have labor problems. That includes possible strikes.

With threats of travel disruptions looming, President Bush says he will do whatever he can to try to keep the airlines going.

CNN's Gary Tuchman today has a look at what is at stake.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As trying as commercial flying has been recently, the chaos may be about to reach new heights. Four of America's major airlines face potential strikes within the next several weeks.

ANDY DEANE, DELTA PILOTS' UNION: We're interested in Delta's success, but we also want to be able to participate in that success.

TUCHMAN: Delta Airlines nearly 10,000 pilots are currently voting on whether to authorize negotiators to keep the threat of a strike on the table. Results will be announced Monday.

(on camera): It is fair to say that this will probably pass pretty overwhelmingly, the authorization?

DEANE: Yes, that is fair.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): A strike could begin as soon as April 1st. The Atlanta-based airline's pilots say they should get paid more and full retroactive pay to last year. Airline management has dropped a proposal that would have pegged future pay increases to the airline's performance.

TOM SLOCUMB, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, DELTA: Everything is negotiable. That's what negotiations are for. It's to focus on issues and reach solutions.

TUCHMAN: At American Airlines, it's unhappy flight attendants who could end up going on strike. And at United Airlines and Northwest Airlines, it's mechanics.

All together, the four airlines carry nearly 70 percent of the 588 million U.S. passengers annually. GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that -- it could have a harmful effect on our economy, and I urge that the parties settle their disputes.

TUCHMAN: The president received a letter from the CEO of the American Society of Travel Agents, with a foreboding message about these four airlines.

"The consequence of losing two or more at once," writes Richard Copland, "is almost unimaginable."

For its part, Delta says it will continue paying other employees if the pilots strike, but will cancel all flights except for Delta's commuter airlines.

SLOCUMB: We're going to stop operations of the company, because that's important as well for our customers and our employees and our pilots. It ends confusion.

TUCHMAN: For those who think last summer's delays were unbearable, there is certainly potential for this summer to be dramatically worse.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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