“If we had only stopped them at PATCO” became a common labor refrain in the union-busting years of the Reagan administration. Most in labor will now acknowledge that the lack of full labor solidarity was a key factor in the defeat of the PATCO (air traffic controllers) union. It opened the door to years of ferocious corporate and government attack on unions.

Today the strike of mechanics at Northwest Airlines has the feel of PATCO repeated. PATCO was in the doghouse with much of labor because it was one of the few unions to endorse Reagan for president. Similarly the Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association (AMFA), which represents the mechanics at Northwest, has a cloud over it because of its raiding of other unions in the airline industry, and because of its craft union approach.

But regardless, the class struggle put these workers on the front line for all union members.

Defeat of the AMFA workers at Northwest would intensify the attacks on all the airline unions and indeed on all unions. This is a classic tactic on the part of corporate America. They are taking full advantage of the divisions in labor. They will attack what they see as labor’s weakest links.

It is in the interest of all labor and the progressive movements that the Northwest strikers win and stop the destruction of their union. This is truly a case of “an injury to one is an injury to all.” The Northwest strikers need our full support and solidarity.

The strikers need union locals and rank and file committees to help on their picket lines. They need local support committees to warn the flying public not to fly an airline that uses substandard scab mechanics to service its planes. The strikers need us all to spread the word and to stand in solidarity.

Nothing better illustrates the power of unity and the weakness of going it alone than a strike.

To help out you can contact a local strike committee at www.amfanatl.org.