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Northwest and mechanics still talking
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Mechanics union contract coordinator Jeff Mathews said after a long bargaining session Tuesday night that people on both sides are "in good spirits." (MPR Photo/Mark Zdechlik)
Negotiators for Northwest Airlines and its mechanics union will be back at the bargaining table again Wednesday, for talks aimed at reaching a contract agreement before Friday night's strike deadline.

Washington D.C. — The negotiators have been meeting at the Washington D.C. offices of the National Mediation Board since Monday. On Tuesday they worked for nearly 13 hours.

The airline hasn't commented since the negotiations began. Union leaders say they're closer to agreement with Northwest on some contract language issues than they were at the beginning of the week. However, the union says the major issues of pay and job cuts have not yet been addressed.

"It still remains very professional and everybody is in, I would characterize it as good spirits," said Jeff Mathews of the mechanics union as the talks ended late Tuesday night.

A union source told Minnesota Public Radio News the mechanics want to know how much annual savings the airline achieved by laying off nearly 700 of its members earlier this year.

Having that number of people out of work will be a significant negative development for our local economy, and the workers and their families.
- Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he's worried about the economic impact of a Northwest mechanics strike.

Pawlenty says he's met with both sides in the labor dispute, but has no authority in the talks. The governor says he hopes a deal is reached before the strike deadline.

But if the mechanics do walk off the job, Pawlenty says there could be a mixed impact.

"Northwest says they're committed to flying a full schedule, which, if that holds true, then the impact on the traveling public may be minimal. We don't know if they'll be able to sustain the full schedule or not," says Pawlenty. "But having that number of people out of work will be a significant negative development for our local economy, and the workers and their families."

Meanwhile, new reports show Northwest Airlines spent $976,000 in lobbying expenses in the first six months this year, pushing for pension relief legislation to help the airline stay out of bankruptcy. The airline listed the pension relief bill, along with a host of other pieces of legislation, on its most recent lobbying report.

The reports don't break down how much money Northwest spent on each bill, and Northwest wouldn't provide that information.

Financial analyst and CEO Vaughn Cordle of AirlineForecasts in Washington said pension relief would help Northwest avoid huge payments in the next few years.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)