President-elect Barack Obama, an outspoken supporter of Big Labor, will move into the White House in a year when 16 airlines are scheduled for contract talks with their unions. "We've never had a convergence of amendable dates like we're going to have," says airline consultant William Swelbar. Union officials hope to see friendlier appointees on the National Mediation Board as well as shortened negotiation requirements before a strike can be called. However, Kevin Mitchell of the Business Travel Coalition says the new administration may be able to leverage its union support into greater cooperation from all sides. "There's a new awareness that the industry is broken, and all the stakeholders have to come together here and find some path forward that will include trade-offs from customers, shareholders and labor," he says.
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