With nearly 11,000 maintenance workers nationwide, American Airlines is one of the jewels of the aerospace industry for labor unions.
About 5,000 of those mechanics are at the Tulsa base, which conducts heavy maintenance for American's entire fleet since the company closed its 1,200-employee Alliance base in Fort Worth in 2012.
The Transport Workers Union negotiated the August contract with American Airlines that gave a 15 percent raise over six years and improved health benefits. The TWU also struck the deal with American Airlines and US Airways that promises another 4.5 percent raise when the merger closes in the third quarter of this year and gives a 4.8 percent equity stake in the new company to union mechanics.
The mechanics union is critical, not only as the employees' bargaining representative with American Airlines management, but because unions also dictate seniority.
That seniority was crucial when American Airlines laid off nearly 400 workers in Tulsa last year.
"Unions decide if seniority is based on how long you work at the company or how long you worked at a location or maybe something else," said Chuck Schalk, an American Airlines mechanic at JFK Airport in New York and co-chairman for AMFA.