American Airlines and American Eagle employees rally in front of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

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Why Mechanics Rejected AA’s Contract Offer, And What it Means for Tulsa

  • Joe Wertz

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

American Airlines and American Eagle employees rally in front of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York.

Five of seven bargaining units within the Transport Workers Union voted to accept American Airlines’ final labor contract.

Rejection came from two groups: store clerks and mechanics, the union’s largest group at the Tulsa maintenance base. The fate of 2,100 Tulsa-area workers is now in the hands of a bankruptcy court.

So what motivated mechanics to reject the airline’s offer? Anger.

In nine years, the mechanics’ wages and benefits were cut by 25 percent. And the prospect of suffering six more years of substandard industry compensation “doomed” the airline’s “last, best” contract offer, reports the Tulsa World’s D.R. Stewart.

“It appears to me they (mechanics) voted out of anger,” said Rick Mullings, spokesman for TWU Local 514 in Tulsa. “We knew it was going to be close. We were hoping for a “yes” vote, but it didn’t surprise me. We’ve gone the last six or seven years trying to negotiate a (new) contract and not getting one.

“We also voted to give American $1.6 billion a year in (wage and benefit) concessions” in 2003 to help the company avert a bankruptcy filing.

The Tulsa maintenance base employs about 7,000. The majority of those workers — roughly 5,600 — are TWU mechanics. About 56 percent of American’s mechanics rejected the airline’s contract offer. Fifty-one percent of stores clerks, a much smaller group, also voted to reject the contract offer.

Five other bargaining units — dispatchers, ground school instructors, maintenance control and simulator technicians and fleet service clerks — voted to accept American’s offer, the World reports.

For the five groups that voted “yes,” workers are giving up certain parts of their contract, such as retiree medical benefits, wages and vacation. Company spokesman Bruce Hicks said the decision will save 1,300 jobs, pay raises, early retirement incentives and other benefits for the five groups that accepted the deal, Justin Juozapavicius with the Associated Press reports.

For the “no” voters, American will ask a bankruptcy court judge to throw out current labor contracts, which could mean the Tulsa hub shrinks to about 4,700 workers, the AP reports.

“We’re at the mercy of the court,” machinist Joe McGill told the news service. “I hope we can survive this, keep the maintenance base open and functioning and maybe someday start to rebuild.”