‘Survival’ Vote Looms at Hawker Beechcraft

IAM members at Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita, KS, will vote this week on a seven-year tentative agreement that preserves two-thirds of the 2,600 bargaining unit jobs that were threatened with elimination.

Prior to the tentative agreement, Hawker Beechcraft was considering a $400 million offer from the state of Louisiana to relocate its entire manufacturing operation to Baton Rouge.

The relocation idea was withdrawn by the company following meetings with union leaders and Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson, who offered state incentives in exchange for assurance that the vast majority of Hawker Beechcraft jobs would remain in Wichita.

The commitment to remain in Wichita is also contingent on an agreement with the IAM.

“These have been extraordinary negotiations, during extraordinarily bad times,” said the IAM Bargaining Committee in a bulletin to members. “This community has suffered from layoffs and job losses. With plant closures and threats of relocation, we kept one goal in mind: It’s about having a job. It’s about survival in this economy.”

The global recession hit Wichita’s aerospace industry hard, triggering thousands of layoffs as aircraft orders dried up.

“We have worked toward a commitment to keep jobs in Wichita, while competing against other states who wished to poach our jobs, with a company fighting for survival, too,” said the IAM Committee. “Although there are concessions, we made huge improvements in job security. Last week, the reality is that the plant teetered close to being gone forever.”