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Strike Would Be Costly - For Everyone

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RALEIGH — There's only about a week left untilthe federally mandated "cooling off" period ends and agreement must bereached, or, American Airlines pilots say, they will go out on strike.And any strike will affect all of American's employees nationwide andinternationally, as well as prospective passengers holding tickets.

The pilots have worked for more than two years without a contract. Payis a key issue in the talks, but so is who can fly small jets. A tentativeagreement, rejected last month, would have allowed a limited number of50-passenger regional jets to be flown by commuter airline pilots, who arerepresented by a different union.

Both sides say if agreement is not reached, a 60-day walkout couldoccur and it would cost the company $1 billion a month.

Unestimated so far is how much it would cost American's otheremployees, such as Michelle Walter, who has been planning her wedding.She says the possibility of a strike has put many of her ideas on hold,until things are resolved.

Local offices of American have given employees a tentative plan of howand when they would be laid off. Making matters worse, North Carolina lawdoes not allow workers to collect unemployment benefits if they are laidoff as a result of a labor dispute. This means many people may find itvery difficult to make ends meet, and they may have to find other jobs.

American's ticketholders, too, would be directly affected. Bothleisure and business travel would need to be rescheduled. At RDUInternational Airport, American operates 17 flights a day. Passengerswould have to have tickets rewritten for other airlines, on a spaceavailable basis, or get a refund from American.

American's pilots say that smaller carriers pose athreat. They are demanding that the carrier drop allplans to allow its American Eagle unit to fly regional jets. AirlinePilotsAssociation members say they thought American would try to turn more of its short-haul routes over to American Eagle, thereby threatening their jobs.

The pilots say if they don't have a new deal, they are ready to strike.

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