TULSA, Okla. - A "ghost" ad campaign urging American Airlines mechanics and stores groups to reject a labour agreement is misleading and doesn't reflect the sentiment of many workers at the bankrupt airline's Tulsa hub, local union representatives said Friday.
A half-page advertisement featured in Friday's local newspaper urged workers: "Vote No Save Our Profession." It's not clear who is behind the ad, which listed several reasons why the bankrupt air carrier's final, best labour offer is no good, including lack of job security, frozen pensions and slashed vacation time.
American, which has about 73,000 employees, filed for bankruptcy protection in November and announced a plan in February to eliminate thousands of union jobs as part of a cost-cutting move, including hundreds in Tulsa. American is Tulsa's largest private employer, with about 7,000 workers.
Mechanics and stores groups began voting Monday on the airline's proposed labour agreement after months of back-and-forth negotiations. In May, the mechanics and related workers — the largest Transport Workers Union group at the Tulsa hub, representing a voting bloc of about 5,000 — rejected the company's labour contract offer. American has said new contracts could save jobs and that a bankruptcy court judge could throw out current contracts with workers if it's unable to reach deals with them.
The unsigned ad that appeared Friday included a website, www.lbo2.com , which doesn't appear to have any information on who is behind the campaign. The site features a graphic depicting a raised fist with capital red letters saying: "Stand Firm." Below the picture is a line telling workers to "Take a Stand! Refuse to Kneel! Vote No!"
An email sent to the site seeking information was not returned Friday afternoon. A telephone number was not listed on the site.
With the vote by the mechanic and stores groups ending Aug. 7, some union representatives worried the ad could unfairly sway some workers to reject the contract, paving the way for a bankruptcy court judge to possibly throw out the current contracts the beleaguered airline has with its workers.
"It's a ghost out there, as far as I'm concerned," said Del Cotton, a machinist with 25 years with the company. "That stuff didn't come from Oklahoma."
John Hewitt, chairman of maintenance for the TWU Local 514 in Tulsa, said he was frustrated by the ad.
"Whether this is an individual or a company, they've misconstrued what's going on," Hewitt said. "Obviously, these people don't feel it's important to stand behind what they're saying; then they would have to answer for the things they say."
One man featured in a YouTube video posted on the site was Bob Owens, president of TWU Local 562 in Jamaica, N.Y., which represents about 800 mechanics and stores workers, saying the labour agreement would be a bad move. Owens said Friday that although he is featured in a clip on the website and personally agrees with some of its statements, neither he nor his local set it up.
"The campaign in Tulsa, we don't have anything to do with that," Owens said. "(But) we are definitely against the second, last best offer."
Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, did not comment directly on the ad. She said in a statement that the company believes the tentative agreements reached with the mechanics and stores groups represent "the best path" for employees and American's future success.
"Individual members now have the opportunity to review all the facts available and should carefully weigh their choices before casting their vote," she said in the statement.
American was able to reach deals in May with five TWU units representing fleet service clerks, dispatchers, ground school instructors, maintenance control technicians and simulator technicians. Those workers gave up certain parts of their contract, but the company said the decision would save about 1,300 jobs.