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Fri, Nov 18, 2005

Northwest Workers Write Judge Asking For Help

Some Plead, Others Pray... One Accuses

If you're Judge Allan Gropper, you have no shortage of people trying to get your attention right now -- especially if those people are current or former employees of Northwest Airlines.

Gropper -- the US Bankruptcy Court judge who Wednesday approved interim concession agreements with pilots and flight attendants, including pay cuts up to 24 percent in some cases -- has received letters from several Northwest employees.

Some try flattery in hopes of garnering his attention, according to the Associated Press, while others try the direct approach -- as did laid-off mechanic Jim Ward.

"I hope you want to hear all the facts. Because if you don't than (sic) I'm no better off than some poor schmuck in some South American country," wrote Ward in an impassioned letter, that invited Gropper to come to the Minneapolis-St. Paul to see the impact of laid-off workers firsthand.

"I'm sure you have the power to have Northwest let you and I tour the maintenance facility so you might have a better feel and understanding of what's at stake," added Ward, who was laid off from his job more than two years ago.

In the Wednesday hearing, Gropper also delayed until January a hearing to terminate employee collective bargaining agreements with the pilot, flight attendant, and machinists unions.

One flight attendant tells Gropper (right) she prays he'll make the right decisions for workers, while another employee questions if the judge is on the take -- even comparing the Northwest case to that of disgraced former energy provider Enron.

The overriding theme to many of the letters, though, is of love for a company that has been a victim of poor management.

"What we need is true leadership, and right now that leader is you," A320 pilot Rick Larson wrote, disputing reasons given by management for the company's September 14 Chapter 11 filing.

Employees will sacrifice, Larson wrote, for leadership they trust. The pilot also called on Gropper to select a new CEO for the airline, which the judge does not have the power to do. Nor can he bring back striking mechanics, although only he can grant Northwest permission to reject union contracts.

Analysts say such personal letters aren't uncommon during bankruptcy proceedings, and Gropper declined to comment on them. That doesn't mean the letter writers are going to give up on their personal pleas.

"I hope I haven't offended you with my candid comment," said laid-off mechanic Ward, "because I am definitely in a 'David vs. Goliath' battle and I need someone that's in a position to make change hear my arguments."



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