Jerry Jones likes to say, Dont let your money get mad.Thats easier to do if you have a lot of it, like the Dallas Cowboys owner, but its a solid principle for regular folks, too especially union workers at American Airlines.Anger and distrust run so deep at American that some pilots, mechanics and flight attendants will soon reject new contracts, even though the deals are significantly better than the alternative. If enough workers turn down these so-called last, best offers from American, the bankruptcy judge could throw out current agreements and approve tougher terms. And the debate over a potential merger with US Airways could be delayed.Most important, the labor groups would forgo a big equity stake that gives them more power in charting the companys future. The value of that equity, to be awarded as part of the new contracts, cannot be overstated. Advisers to the pilots put it this way: Without the stock, theyll be relegated to the kids table, where they can scream and whine all they want and largely be ignored.But if labor has a combined 20 percent of the shares in the new company, along with its three seats on the unsecured creditors committee, the unions will be sitting at the parents table. Theyll have a say on dinner and how its divvied up.Still not convinced? Consider that American CEO Tom Horton and US Air CEO Doug Parker both want union workers to approve the contracts this month. The two execs dont agree on much, especially the end game for American, but they see this issue the same way.The contracts are a milestone in Americans Chapter 11 reorganization, and a prerequisite to everything that comes next. Get them done, and the process moves forward and builds toward the conclusion everyones waiting for the showdown between Hortons vision and Parkers.Reject the deals, and more court fights, chaos and delays will follow. These contract votes -- scheduled to conclude this week for pilots and mechanics, and in mid-August for flight attendants -- should not be a tough call. While the offers include deep concessions, it would only make things worse to give up the stock and invite the judge to act, which is what American management will do.But the union politics are intense, and negotiators face a backlash from workers who are distressed about the looming cutbacks. Consider that the pilots union board approved its tentative agreement by a slim 9-7 margin.As with Congress, some votes were political theater, intended to burnish hard-line reputations. Many leaders are treading lightly, even though they want the contracts approved. Its almost as if an endorsement from union officials and certainly from American would be a proverbial kiss of death. Some mechanics also see nothing but downside. Americans Alliance maintenance base, for instance, is slated to close. How do those workers approve any deal? Other opponents ran an unsigned half-page newspaper ad aimed at Tulsa mechanics, urging a no vote to save our profession.Last week, the flight attendants union turned more aggressive, holding road shows in San Francisco, Los Angeles and St. Louis. This week, theyre scheduled to go to Boston, Chicago and New York. They have an additional fear: If pilots approve a deal and they dont, they could be marginalized.Pilots are the linchpin in the contracts, because of their pay and status (and a proposed equity stake of 13.5 percent for their group alone). Thats even more reason for other groups to swallow hard and approve.My initial reaction to the companys last best final offer was, Oh, hell no! and at first I thought I could never endorse this, Marcus Gluth, vice president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants wrote to members last week. The more I read and understood the offer and the realities we face as a union, the easier my yes vote became.In addition to hostility toward management, theres some confusion about the contracts thats understandable. Union leaders have been so adamant in support of a merger that some workers want to cast a vote for US Air. Many also dont want to give any wins to Horton. Theyre afraid that his team will take credit and champion the labor deals for its own agenda.That sentiment was summed up in a question on the Allied Pilots Association website:How does supporting the tentative agreement not end up supporting Tom Horton and the stand-alone plan? It seems like reverse logic to me.What a new contract would do is take labor issues off the table, the union said. And that has to happen in order for management to submit a reorganization plan and for US Air and others to counter with their own ideas.In short, the path to a merger goes through an American contract first.Its a bit counter-intuitive, but workers dont have the option to vote for a US Air deal at the moment. Unsecured creditors want a stand-alone plan first both to weigh that option and serve as the baseline to measure other proposals.Heres one more way to think of it: New union contracts will shift the focus from labor to management.With one side resolved, it will be the others turn in the bankruptcy spotlight. Thats a detailed review many American stakeholders are eager to see.