Wichita Strikers Win at Bombardier

Members of Local 639 in Wichita, KS voted by a 56 percent margin this week to ratify an improved contract offer from Bombardier Aerospace, ending a 22-day strike over pay, pensions and health care benefits.

The new 3-year accord, reached after a 36-hour bargaining session and with help from federal mediators, boosts pay by 11 percent over the life of the agreement and places caps on employee health care premiums. The contract also includes an increase in pensions and a $1,500 signing bonus.

“The substantial improvements in this latest contract offer are a direct result of the efforts of the members who held firm on the picket line and demanded terms that reflected Bombardier’s success over the past several years,” said Southern Territory GVP Bob Martinez.

The workers at Bombardier, who build Learjet aircraft, accepted a wage freeze and other concessions in 2002 in exchange for a pledge to keep the Learjet production line in Wichita and a promise to restore cuts when business improved.

“This settlement is a testament not only to the solidarity of IAM members in Wichita, but to the basic value of the collective bargaining process,” said IP Tom Buffenbarger, who traveled to Wichita with GST Warren Mart to walk picket lines with members of Local 639. “The vast majority of all contracts are settled without a strike, but this union is fully prepared to support members who decide a strike is necessary to win a fair contract.”

Local 639 members voted 80 percent to strike Bombardier after rejecting an initial offer from the company that allowed for unlimited increases in health care costs. It was the first strike by IAM members at Bombardier’s Wichita facility.

“I want to also thank our hard-working negotiating committee, members of the community and the federal mediators for their help in resolving this dispute,” said Aerospace Coordinator Ron Eldridge. “But in the end, it was the members themselves who won a better contract for themselves and their fellow employees.”