|IAM President Tom Buffenbarger and Hawker Beechcraft Chairman and CEO W.W. (Bill) Boisture Jr. shared the head table at the opening of negotiations for a new contract covering 2,400 members of Local 733 in Wichita, KS.|
All eyes in the aviation community were on Wichita, KS last week, where IAM leaders gathered to open a pair of negotiations that could determine if that city continues to be known as the Air Capital of the World.
IAM President Tom Buffenbarger met with top representatives of Cessna Aircraft and Hawker Beechcraft as the industry continues to struggle with a market for business jets that collapsed in the wake of the 2008 credit crisis.
“The demand for aircraft will return and this industry will eventually recover,” predicted Buffenbarger. “The key question is how much of it will still be here in Wichita when it does. It is critical that we do not allow our long-term goals to be compromised by short-term thinking.”
The IAM represents approximately 2,500 workers at Cessna, where the contract expires in September. The IAM contract with Hawker Beechcraft, which covers about 2,400 workers, does not expire for another twelve months, but the company has requested earlier negotiations. The state of Louisiana has offered Hawker Beechcraft millions of dollars to relocate their factory.
Buffenbarger was sharply critical of states using federal stimulus money to attract employers from states like Kansas, rather than create new jobs.
“All we are doing is shifting resources, we are not creating new resources,” said Buffenbarger in an Associated Press article. “The way I viewed stimulus funds and government policy was to expand jobs, make more opportunities – not just move them from point A to point B.”
Joining Buffenbarger at the bargaining table were representatives of negotiating committees for Locals 774 and 733, who represent workers at Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft, respectively. Also at the table were IAM Headquarters GVP Rich Michalski, Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez, as well as Aerospace Coordinator Ron Eldridge, District 70 President Steve Rooney and others.
“We’re all here to bring as much experience as possible to these negotiations,” said GVP Martinez. “The task of saving jobs under these circumstances isn’t easy, but we have the will and we have the resources. We also have thousands of highly-skilled members who deserve nothing less than our very best efforts.”