Union Approves New Contract for American Airlines Workers

The Transport Workers Union announced today{}mechanics narrowly approved{} a new contract with American Airlines.

The mechanics group voted in favor of the new contract by a razor-thin margin of 50.25% to 49.75%. The stores group, which handles inventory and materials, voted 79% to 21% in favor.

The company filed for bankruptcy last November, demanding hundreds of millions of dollars in concessions to avoid layoffs.

The airline says the new contract saves about 1,900 jobs, but the union thinks it's more like 1,400 jobs.{} The TWU Local 514 President says the agreement is better than nothing, but it's bitter sweet.{} "It's still stressful there are folks that are going to be laid off. We need to help one another, heal one another and take care of one another.{} We're a union, and we have to look out for one another and take care of one another," Cirri told Tulsa's Channel 8.

The union had voted to reject all previous offers from the company. Union officials will speak to the media later this afternoon with more details about what decision means for workers.

"There is a lot of frustration associated with this entire bankruptcy process which is designed to facilitate concessions and to insure reorganization of the debtor rather than advance the interests of working people," TWU International President James C. Little said.

"Nobody is happy with the concessionary agreement, and our members are still waiting to see a business plan that instills confidence. This result is a lot better than what our members would have face with a court imposed solution."

American Airlines gave the union until midnight last night to accept what the company called it's last and best offer. The company said 2,100 jobs were on the line.

An American Airlines spokesman said the ratification of the new contract is an important step in helping the airline in its restructuring.

"We know these were difficult decisions, and we appreciate our people taking the time to voice their opinions through the voting process," Spokesman Bruce Hicks said. "The ratified agreements will help American reach our targeted cost savings and increase productivity and network flexibility."

The new contract preserves about 1,900 jobs that would have been eliminated while offering a modest pay raise to Union employees who remain at the Tulsa facility, Hicks said.

The contract does call for some job cuts. The Tulsa Metro Chamber released a statement that they are ready to assist with workers who will lose their jobs:

"We commend the TWU members for casting the hard vote with much thought and consideration to their colleagues who ultimately will lose their jobs. The Chamber and our regional partners stand ready to assist any displaced workers. While aviation and aerospace remain key industry sectors in the region's economic development success, it is the human capital, our highly-skilled workforce, 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."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.