Only five striking Northwest Airlines mechanics have crossed their union's picket line to return to work. That unity is about to get its toughest test.
The airline is set to begin hiring permanent replacements Tuesday and union officials are exhorting members to stay strong in a strike that began August 20.
The strike won't end if Northwest hires permanent replacements, but it will be one more example of how the airline holds the upper hand.
Striking workers could still get their jobs if the union strikes a deal with the airline. Otherwise, they'd have to cross the picket line or the union would have to offer to return to work unconditionally.
But once Northwest hires replacements permanently, strikers only have a right to jobs that are open.