Tulsa leaders, workers fight to stem American Airlines layoffs

Tulsa leaders hope the 2,100 workers targeted for layoffs can land in some other portion of the region's burgeoning aviation industry.
By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS Published: February 28, 2012
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Tulsans say their sweat and sacrifice went into every rivet, every bolt and every overhauled brake on American Airlines jets that pass through the company's 66-year-old maintenance base here, and city leaders hope the 2,100 workers targeted for layoffs can land in some other portion of the region's burgeoning aviation industry.

“We've done all we can do,” said Donna Florea, a third-generation AA employee who learned her trade from her grandfather. After 10 years in the shop, “I've put it in God's hands.”

So far, there has been limited success while the airline's parent, AMR Corp. of Fort Worth, Texas, works its way through bankruptcy court after losing $11 billion since 2001. The fear is the cutbacks could cost Tulsa more than 10 percent of workers in the region's aviation sector.

“We're making progress each week,” said Mike Neal, the president and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber. “As soon as the layoffs were announced, we were overwhelmed at the chamber with companies who said ‘I need 20 people. I need 75 people. I need 10 people.'”

A chamber spokeswoman says it is too soon to announce specific companies that may absorb the American losses, but they include the energy and aviation fields.

About 20,000 people in the region work in the aviation or aerospace industry, and American's cutbacks could cost the local economy $300 million, according to chamber economist Bob Ball.

“You don't want to lose that kind of revenue stream,” Ball said. “All I know is that we're dealing with the situation. We want to ensure people that the brunt of the loss of 2,100 jobs is an incident we can bear the brunt of and dampen the effect of (the layoffs).”

The average employee at the Tulsa hub makes about $50,000 a year — a salary typical in the city's other main industry: oil.