(From Lou Dobbs Tonight Show aired November 17th, 2005)
"And then, an American-owned airline, one of the largest in this country, is about to take thousands of jobs away from American workers. All after our government, of course, bailed them out with millions of dollars in taxpayer money. We'll tell you which airline and what is being done and should be done about it.
And then, Congressman Curt Weldon says an investigation into Able Danger could be the most important investigation of our lifetime. One of the nation's former top cops is jumping on board and demanding action as well.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Flight attendants for Northwestern Airlines today were on Capitol Hill trying to save their jobs. They claim Northwest wants to fire 2,600 American flight attendants and replace them with cheap foreign workers. It's just the latest cutback in an airline that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in bailout money from the federal government.
Lisa Sylvester reports.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Northwest Airlines has been outsourcing maintenance jobs to Hong Kong and Singapore. Soon, your Northwest flight attendant may be replaced as well.
The Professional Flight Attendants Association held a rally on Capitol Hill objecting to company plans to dismiss U.S. flight attendants on international flights and hire foreign counterparts who could be paid as little as $250 a month.
ROB LAUGHLIN, FLIGHT ATTENDANT: I've been flying for eight years, and I would definitely lose my job, because we'd lose about 3,000 to 4,000 flight attendants.
SYLVESTER: This comes on the heels of a severe round of temporary and permanent pay cuts for Northwest workers. Pilots took a pay cut of almost 24 percent. Flight attendants, 21 percent. Groundworkers, 19 percent.
Meanwhile, Northwest CEO Doug Steenland's executive compensation package is nearly $4.5 million. He's also guaranteed an annual retirement pension of nearly $1 million, even as the company is trying to shed some of its pension obligations for the rank and file.
Northwest currently owes $3.8 billion to its pension plan.
GUY MEEK, PROFESSIONAL FLIGHT ATTENDANTS ASSOC.: If it wasn't for the front line workers, the agents, the mechanics, the flight attendants, the pilots, there wouldn't be an airline. No matter what the name is on the airplane. We are the people that bring the revenue into the company.
SYLVESTER: Northwest responded, saying, "Management was the first group to take pay reductions. Salaried employees were also the first group to have their defined benefit pensions frozen."
Like other airlines, Northwest has been struggling since the 9/11 attacks. It received a $249 million taxpayer-funded government grant. The company then turned around and bought more than a dozen new planes from the European based Airbus Company. In September of this year, Northwest filed for bankruptcy.
SYLVESTER: If Northwest outsourcers its flight attendant jobs, there is worry other airlines may follow suit. There's also a major national security concern because U.S. flight attendants are subject to federal screening, fingerprint and criminal background checks. The same would not be true for foreign workers -- Lou.
DOBBS: Lisa, this is nothing short of outrageous. A quarter of a billion dollars in federal taxpayer money to bail the airline out. Then the purchase of Airbus aircraft, made obviously not by American workers. Then the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation responsible for nearly $4 billion in unfunded pensioned liability on the part of Northwest.
And this airline has the temerity to want to destroy 2,500 American jobs?
SYLVESTER: That's exactly right, Lou. And if you talk to these workers, these flight attendants, keep in mind it's their taxpayer dollars that essentially went to Airbus, and now their jobs are essentially on the line here.
DOBBS: It is remarkable that Congress has already not demanded hearings on this, and that this administration, of course, which is in favor of outsourcing of this sort, we don't expect them to do anything. But certainly one would expect Congress to intervene at some point in this kind of utter madness.
Lisa Sylvester. Thank you very much.
And it's worth pointing out Northwest, of course, is not alone in receiving those multi hundred million-dollar bailouts from the federal government. All of the major airlines receive multimillion-dollar payments after the September 11 terrorist attacks. "