Union Employees At Tulsa's American Airlines Wait For Next Move

Wednesday, August 25th 2010, 4:02 pm
By: News On 6

By Dan Bewley, The News On 6

TULSA, OKLAHOMA -- Union employees at Tulsa's American Airlines plant are in a holding pattern.

They're waiting to see if federal mediators will let them pursue a path that could lead to a strike.

Transport Workers Union mechanics voted nearly 2 to 1 against a proposed new contract with American Airlines. The union did more than turn down a contract; it also gave the go ahead for a strike.

The crucial vote had local workers holding their breath.

"For, uh, probably 2/3 of the workers out there, it's, uh, it's relief because they felt like they had a contract that they couldn't couldn't live with," said Rick Mullings, Local Transport Workers Union.

8/24/2010 Related Story: Tulsa Transport Workers Union Rejects American Airlines Contract

The contract would have increased salaries and included signing bonuses. But it also would have cut some benefits and pensions for employees under 50 years old.

The union's vice president released a statement saying:

"Our members have spoken loud and clear. After four years of negotiations, a majority of TWU members were not convinced that this agreement represented an adequate return for the hundreds of millions of dollars of sacrifices we agreed to in 2003."

It's the concessions in 2003 that appear to be the reason the union rejected the proposal. Back then, the pilots and transport workers union voted to accept nearly $2 billion in cuts.

As for American Airlines, a spokeswoman said in a statement its goals were clear from the beginning:

"Position the company to compete successfully for the long-term and provide competitive pay and benefits, and a good career for our employees. American felt the tentative agreements reached with both groups represented the company's best offer and demonstrate we can reach agreements with the TWU."

So what about the potential for a strike?

The union vote Tuesday night authorized one, but the local union president says it's the last thing anybody wants and an aviation consultant based in Colorado tells the News On 6 a deal will probably be worked out before a picket line is formed.

"This is simply the normal give and take of labor relations, except for the labor side of it it's an imperative to walk away with more money, they will do that but it's probably going to take a little more gnashing of teeth across the bargaining table," said Michael Boyd, Boyd Group International.

The local president told the News On 6 his negotiating team will be meeting with union workers as they try to determine what changes should be made for a new contract. He also said a strike is out of the picture as long as they're negotiating.