MINNEAPOLIS — (PAI) A Minnesota federal bankruptcy judge on Oct. 23 banned the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA from starting “chaos” at a Northwest Airlines feeder, Mesaba Airlines. “CHAOS stands for Create Havoc Around Our System” and is the union’s tactic of using selective strikes against selected flights with no prior notice.

The ruling sent AFA-CWA members from both airlines out on Oct. 26 to informational picket lines in Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis, Northwest’s hubs. Mesaba’s Air Line Pilots picketed the courthouse the day of the bankruptcy judge’s ruling.

The protests apparently had some impact: Mesaba resumed bargaining Oct. 24 and said it would hold off cuts for now.

AFA-CWA also went back to a higher court to try to get a trial judge’s anti-CHAOS injunction at Northwest overturned. And it asked the National Mediation Board — which governs airline labor-management relations — to declare an impasse in the AFA-Northwest contract talks. An impasse would start a 60-day clock going for a strike.

The rulings are important nationwide, AFA President Pat Friend warns, because they could open the way for other carriers to use bankruptcy as a shield not only to cut pay and benefits but also to prevent workers from helping themselves by the threat of CHAOS or a full strike.

“Northwest management made every attempt to stall negotiations and hang on to the concessions they forcibly took in bankruptcy court,” Friend said.

“History has shown us that what one airline is allowed to get away with under the bankruptcy umbrella becomes the goal for all other airlines,” added Tim Evenson, AFA’s Mesaba president.

The judge said Mesaba could cut flight attendants’ pay 17.5 percent. Both unions appealed his strike ban. Added ALPA Mesaba chair Tom Wychor: “Under the law, if your contract gets rejected, you don’t have to perform under that contract. No bankruptcy court has recognized any exception under the statutes, until today.”

Workday Minnesota contributed material for this story.