BY World's Editorials Writers
Friday, August 10, 2012
8/10/12 at 3:25 AM
American Airlines, the Tulsa area's largest corporate employer, finally has reached deals with all seven Transport Workers Union-represented work groups, meaning - on the plus side - fewer anticipated layoffs at the bankrupt air carrier's Tulsa maintenance facility than once projected.
On Wednesday, American Airlines reached deals with the last two TWU groups, which represent mechanics and stock clerks. The narrowly passed contract ratification vote reportedly will save about 1,400 jobs.
That's the good news.
Now, for the bad news: The long-dreaded and seemingly inevitable job loss for up to 2,615 mechanics, related workers and stock clerks are expected to begin in six to nine months. The hope is that as many of those jobs as possible can occur as painlessly as possible through attrition and early retirement.
One TWU official said that while the mechanics ratification vote saves jobs and wages and some benefits, it will not restore prestige and pride to the profession.
"At first the ratification vote," said John Hewit, chairman of maintenance at TWU Local 514, "was a bit of a temporary relief.
"But the next thing is implementing the painful part, working through the jobs losses, which will affect the community. I'm not looking forward to anything. The only thing to look forward to is the other side of it - getting through the bankruptcy, renegotiating contracts and recouping some of the jobs lost."
The loss of any AA jobs here represents a serious blow to the individuals and families impacted, the communities in which they live and the area's economy in general. AA is an economic powerhouse for this area. Billed as the largest nonmilitary aerospace maintenance facility in the world, AA has 7,000 employees and a $585 million annual payroll.
In what form AA emerges from bankruptcy or whether it might be purchased by another carrier are looming questions. No matter how the news is spun, AA faces an uncertain future.
Neither the Tulsa area economy nor the AA workforce deserve "death" by a thousand cuts. The best scenario is that AA will emerge from bankruptcy stronger than ever with its maintenance facility eventually returning to full strength.