On the surface, the Transport Workers Union's approval of a new contract with American Airlines last week would appear to have saved about 1,400 Tulsa jobs.
But for existing local workers, it's more complicated than that.
American Airlines, which is trying to cut $1.06 billion in labor costs to help it emerge from bankruptcy, originally planned to eliminate 2,100 mechanics at its Tulsa maintenance base. The deal approved by the TWU on Aug. 8 -- the second offered by American while it has been under Chapter 11 protection -- reduced that amount to 770.
A second TWU group, stock clerks, also approved a pact that lowered cuts in Tulsa from a planned 160 to 90.
Still, there's another event that's quietly looming -- the planned closure of American's repair base at Alliance Airport in Fort Worth. Because of union "bump-and-roll" provisions, some of the more than 1,500 TWU mechanics there will have the option to move to Tulsa.
The bump rules are complicated, but seniority is a big factor. So, younger members in Tulsa undoubtedly will be displaced by some Fort Worth workers.
"There's no way to tell at this point how many that would be," said John Hewitt, chairman of maintenance at TWU Local 514, in a telephone interview. "There's a lot of moving parts."
So, the bottom line is that it's possible more than 770 of Tulsa's existing mechanics may lose their jobs.
In purely economic terms, the impact on the city will be lessened slightly by Texans moving here and buying homes, but the situation also means some longtime Tulsans will be put out of work and may lose their houses if they can't find other positions.
American has told the union it wants to close Alliance and redistribute employees and work in the next six to nine months, Hewitt said.
Sam Cirri, president of TWU Local 514, alluded to the situation last Thursday in a letter to members.
"Dealing with this bankruptcy process has put a lot of stress on all of us and our families and, yet, we still have a lot of work and sacrifice ahead of us with layoffs and the movement of people and work," he said.
Cirri said the Local 514 will be notifying Tulsa Area United Way agencies, the state unemployment office, resume firms and other service providers to help members who are laid off.
"We are also in the process of making more medical insurance options available, whether (members) stay with the company or not," the president said.
Mike Neal, president and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, also said his group is ready to help.
"While aviation and aerospace remain key industry sectors in the region's economic development success," he said, "it is the human capital -- our highly skilled work force -- which allows these industries to thrive.
"We will intensely focus our resources toward the present and future economic and human well-being of displaced workers and their families."
Another "moving part" in the layoff scenario is that the TWU's latest contract includes an early-out provision.
"It's not early retirement, although that's what some people are calling it," Hewitt said. "It's a deal for someone to leave the company early."
Under the program, a mechanic who is 45 years old with 15 years with the company could be eligible for a $12,500 cash payout, plus $10,000 and 13 weeks' severance pay.
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