Could Voters Play A Role In American Airlines Future In Tulsa?

It's too soon to tell how A-M-R, American's parent company will emerge from bankruptcy, but its fairly common that jobs will be lost at the Tulsa maintenance facility which employs more than seven thousand people.

Green country residents have passed the plate before to help improve the airlines future here.

Tonight,{}Channel 8's Yvonne Lewis asks city leaders, could voters be asked to do it again? It's a story that seems to keep changing by the hour as American Airlines makes its way through bankruptcy. That may not be the only change, and this change could be about the coins in your pockets.

You have to go back more than 60 years to understand the connection between American Airlines and Tulsa. What's now American's maintenance facility was then, in 1947 a top secret base used by the military during World War II.

"They'd bring the bombers in, install these gun turrets and then fly em out."

Following the war, says Rick Mullings, Transport workers Union Rep for local 514, American could see a bigger airline with its DC3's, known as the work horse of the industry. American purchased the hangars from the federal government making Tulsa its primary maintenance base.

Through the years, the airline would bring thousands of jobs and billions of dollars to the economy across Northeast Oklahoma.

"American Airlines is a big, big deal."

{}On the 15th floor of city hall is Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett.

"We are very unified and very together in our desire to keep American Airlines in Tulsa."

Also a player in American's future in Tulsa, Congressman John Sullivan. He's been watching the aircraft giant more closely since its bankruptcy filing last November.

"I wrote a letter to the bankruptcy trustees talking about the economic benefit of it being here in Tulsa and how good the workers are."

Also committed to American, the taxpayers. In 2003, Tulsa County Voters approved 22.3 million dollars for improvements at the Tulsa base, under Vision 2025 funding. It was designed to help American retain jobs and add new ones. In 2011, American Airlines added 500 new jobs in Tulsa while later announcing a move of 230 jobs to Dallas. For some American might appear to be like a fleeting dance partner.

"We've been a partner with American Airlines walking hand in hand, step by step with them, All we're asking for them to do is keep their word and honor their commitments to us."

State Representative Eric Proctor is co-sponsoring bi-partisan legislation called the Oklahoma Job Protection Act. Its intent is...if a company takes a tax incentive from a city, county or state taxpayer, the money has to be repaid if those jobs are shipped out of state or outsourced overseas.

"It's an American issue and for these companies to ship jobs overseas and use our taxpayers to do it is wrong, unjust, immoral and something we should not put up with in Oklahoma."

"Well I don't think we want to threaten," says the Tulsa's Mayor.

Rep. Proctor says its about accountability and we're already seeing resistance.

"It's not like the companies are written a big check up front and leave."

Chamber President Mike Neal says he'd have to see Representative Proctor's bill to say more but it's clear this is a sensitive area. Instead, Neal focuses on what can be done to keep American. He recently offered this advice for area chambers.

"Soon as we can specifically define specifically what help is for American, we'll let you know and we'll beg and plead with you to step forward and provide that assistance."

Neal won't say and we don't know if that means going before the voters again.

"We certainly need to present some kind of incentive or some kind of package from the city and state to American Airlines because it could tip the balance a little bit but we can't bank on that being the answer to everything."

As American navigates through bankruptcy the future WILL bring changes.

{}"Whenever Phillips left Bartlesville how bad it was with the houses not being able to sell em you know this is probably ten times worse," says Rick Mullings with the local union.

Either way it appears the groundwork is already in place.

"I would envision this community would be willing in the future to step up and meet the needs of American Airlines in the years to come," says Neal.

Representative Proctor introduced a similar Oklahoma job protection bill during the last session. It failed by 11 votes.