The Norman Transcript

October 22, 2012

Layoffs taking toll on families

Tulsa World
The Associated Press

TULSA — One employee described spending an entire shift in almost complete silence, her co-workers too unsettled to keep up the usual banter along the maintenance line.

It came last month, after American Airlines posted a “Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification,” known as a WARN letter.

It told nearly 3,000 Tulsa employees they could be laid off in the next few months, as the company struggles to cut costs and emerge from bankruptcy. Nobody knew how many jobs would really be cut, leaving nearly half the Tulsa workforce uncertain about the immediate future.

“It’s been a little less gloomy lately,” says John Bell, who performs maintenance on the facility itself rather than working on the aircraft.

The airline originally planned to cut 2,700 jobs in Tulsa. But the union negotiated the number down to 1,300. And with early retirements and attrition, the actual number of layoffs will be less than 450, officials say.

About 300 of those employees can shift into other positions at American, leaving about 140 out of work, according to the union. But the future is still cloudy for American.

“There is never a time that our membership can get comfortable and say the long-term outlook for job security in Tulsa is good,” said John Hewitt, chairman of Maintenance Transport Workers Union Local 514.

“We are under constant attack from foreign maintenance organizations and politicians who are making it easy for large corporations to send work overseas.”

Tulsa’s maintenance base employs 7,000 people overall, 3,000 of them aircraft maintenance technicians or mechanics. The Transport Workers Union represents 5,500 workers in several job classifications, including AMTs, plant maintenance technicians and logistics specialists.

For local news and more, subscribe to The Norman Transcript Smart Edition, or our print edition.