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Northwest Air and Union in Dispute

The issue concerns whether members of the flight attendants union can observe contract talks.
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A disagreement between

Northwest Airlines


and its flight attendants' union has bubbled over into federal court.

The two sides are at odds over whether members of the Professional Flight Attendants Association should be allowed to observe contract talks between union negotiators and management.

The union said it filed a lawsuit last Thursday in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota contesting the airline's insistence on excluding members from talks.

"PFAA considers member-observers to be an integral part of the negotiations team and believes Northwest's position to be un-American and anti-democratic," the union said in a news release. "The exclusion of flight attendants from collective bargaining will retard the process and diminish the chances of ratification."

The airline declined to comment.

Like other major airlines, Northwest is seeking to cut labor costs as it contends with high fuel prices and cutthroat industry fare competition. Last month, Northwest pilots voted in favor of concessions that will save the Minnesota-based carrier $265 million a year. The airline has also said it will cut another $35 million annually from the salaries and benefits of non-pilot salaried and management employees.

Northwest shares were down 16 cents, or 1.4%, at $10.92 late in Tuesday's session.