National Labor Union Joins IC Bus Workers In PR Campaign Against City Of Tulsa, Mayor

May 12, 2020

A major labor union has weighed in on the lease showdown between Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum and the IC Bus manufacturing plant.

In a statement from their president, Rory Gamble, the United Auto Workers said that the 1,600 workers at the plant "deserve better than the risky behavior that what [sic] we're currently seeing," and accused Bynum of using the workers as "bargaining chips."

Bynum has repeatedly denied claims by IC Bus and parent company Navistar that the city wants to evict their school bus manufacturing plant at the airport. Bynum has maintained that the company simply isn't abiding by terms of their $1 lease, claims that the company has in turn denied in a back-and-forth in the media over the last week. (A spokesperson for the mayor declined comment Tuesday.)

In their latest PR event, Navistar held a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon, where IC Bus workers were joined by representatives from other companies, some of whom said that they would also leave Tulsa were the factory to shut down or move. 

"We have made investments in our Tulsa operations as a result of the success of the IC Bus plant," said Rick Lehnert, owner of Trans/Air, a heating and cooling manufacturer. "If IC Bus goes, so goes Trans/Air. We love Tulsa, but if we have to move, we will."

"If these jobs do go away, the rolling impact on top of everything that's going on with the pandemic and COVID-19, I just think it's imperative to keep these jobs and this organization here," said Denise Reid of local staffing firm Key Personnel. 

Rodney Tharp, the plant's manager, said he's optimistic the company will reach a satisfactory agreement with the city of Tulsa.

"This is a very serious topic, but it's one we should be able to get to resolution quickly if the city honors their commitments," Tharp said. "We can not lose these jobs here in Tulsa."

Last week, the city of Tulsa released a statement calling the claims a "false campaign."