MINNEAPOLIS — Northwest Airlines Corp. and the union representing its 6,200 striking pilots are set to resume "exploratory" talks today to try to end a crippling 11-day strike at the fourth-biggest U.S. airline.
Labor Secretary Alexis Herman said in an interview on NBC's "Today Show" on Monday that she was encouraged after discussions over the weekend in Chicago.
"We're hopeful they'll get back to the bargaining table and settle their differences," she said.
At the weekend meeting, labor and management met alone and with federal mediators, who shuttled between conference rooms to determine if formal negotiations could resume.
The National Mediation Board imposed a news blackout on the discussions,which were held without the two sides ever meeting directly.
The board did not indicate whether there would be a direct meeting between the two sides at the talks in Minneapolis today or whether the mediators would continue to shuttle between them.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sens. Byron L. Dorgan and Kent Conrad, both North Dakota Democrats, planned a conference call with President Clinton to discuss the strike.
"We're going to tell him that we think it's urgent that the airline get up and operating again because it's causing very serious damage," Dorgan said. "Perhaps binding arbitration is the way to go here."
About 27,700 of the Minneapolis-based carrier's 50,000 employees have been put on temporary leave since the strike began Aug. 28.
Northwest pilots took to Detroit's streets Monday with laid-off co-workers in a Labor Day parade. Onlookers in the pro-union city cheered the passing pilots and their families, as well as Northwest machinists and flight attendants laid off by the walkouts. Detroit is a major Northwest hub.