Friday, July 4, 2008
STEVE ROONEY: DON'T SIT BACK AND LET AIRCRAFT INDUSTRY LEAVE
BY STEVE ROONEY
Patriotism is love of country, and it's also love of community. When our community is in danger, we rally together to fight for it.
The Machinists union is sounding the warning -- an early call to gather and fight for the aircraft industry, which is in danger of joining so many other industries in leaving for cheaper labor.
Aircraft has long been the lifeblood of Wichita. Many people can find "Rosie the Riveter" in their family tree, because Wichita churned out bombers during World War II.
When you walk down an assembly line, you can find third- and fourth-generation employees whose grandparents worked in the factories. The institutional knowledge in our work force is invaluable to the industry. Because of that, the industry is very healthy and profitable, and Wichita companies are innovative and put out high-quality products customers want to buy. One would think they wouldn't tinker with that success.
Yet it seems that some corporate leaders, with their eye on the bottom line above all else, don't understand this. An alarming plan, titled "Project Pelican," recently was discovered, detailing a Hawker Beechcraft plan to open a full final aircraft assembly facility in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Although Hawker Beechcraft is attempting to disavow the plan (July 1 Business), indications are it is on track to do that very thing. The company cites competition and being a global company as reasons. But to me, there is far more at stake here. What this is about is the future of the aircraft industry in Wichita.
When NAFTA was passed, the labor movement sounded the warning, which went unheeded. NAFTA proponents said the only jobs lost would be in low-skill industries.
Well, history has proved those predictions untrue, as factory after factory and industry after industry have shut their doors and left for cheap-labor havens such as Mexico and China.
The aviation industry is the last great American industry in which we indisputably lead the world. The good aircraft jobs in Wichita provide the ability to make a good living and raise a strong family. Aviation fuels a tax base that allows the city to be vibrant with good schools and services. In short, it makes Wichita a great city.
The skills that build these airplanes are American, and much of the technology on which these companies rely was developed with government funding. Wichita, in its wholehearted support of the industry, has built an entire infrastructure -- from a research center at Wichita State University to a soon-to-be-built National Center for Aviation Training -- so the city can provide the trained work force the industry needs.
There's no good reason for these companies to leave. The state and community put millions of tax dollars and incentives into these companies.
Some would say there's nothing we can do. I disagree. Americans are tired of the exodus of American industry, and we need to shake the rafters and demand that our legislators work to keep the aviation industry in America and in Wichita.
Steve Rooney is directing business representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, District Lodge 70, Wichita.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
And, being aircraft workers, we know how big that is!
Of course, Hawker Beechcraft has entered full CYA mode. HBC CEO Jim Schuster issued a letter to all employees (available here) trying to tamp down the furor over Project Pelican. The Wichita Eagle wrote about it this morning:
"At this time we do not have plans for full aircraft assembly in Mexico," Hawker Beechcraft chairman and chief executive Jim Schuster said in the letter to employees.
If the company decides to expand further, "we will promptly and fully communicate this to all employees," he said.Ummm... okay...
Wow. We can rest easy now, eh?
So, TOMORROW, they can have plans for full aircraft assembly in Mexico, right?
The IAM is talking about next year, in five years, in ten years. There's too many shuttered factories in America already!
Also from the article:
The Machinists union is skeptical of the company's plans.
Saying there are no plans for full assembly in Mexico at this time "is a loophole you can fly a 747 through," said Machinists spokesman Bob Wood. "That doesn't mean that their plans won't change tomorrow."
Before the company moved its wire harness work to Mexico, the union was assured the work was staying in Wichita, Wood said.
"One year later, it left," he said. The company will "give us assurances until it's too late."
Wood noted that one of the points in the document says to never mention the potential of full aircraft assembly.
Right now, the company has plenty of orders, and workers can move to other jobs. But it's a cyclical business, Wood said.
"When things slow down, then where will the jobs be?" he said.As a community, we have too much invested in his industry not to be very worried about Project Pelican. We have every right to expect them to tell the truth - and good reasons to doubt that they are.
Maybe Hawker Beechcraft thinks this will kill the story. It won't. There's more to come, this story won't die. Stay tuned!
Saturday, June 28, 2008
It has all the elements of a good conspiracy -- a plan with a code name that is at once secretive, descriptive and even alliterative; a plan that includes timelines, flow charts, organizational charts and strategies for keeping the plan under wraps until it's too late.
"There's no reason to move this work -- these companies are highly successful," Wood said, adding that there are differences between the modern American aerospace industry and the moribund auto industry of the 1970s.
"We're the innovators, at the top of our game," he said. "Aerospace is the last great American industry."
Over the next few months, he said, the union plans to take the issue of outsourcing to lawmakers and the community -- and to make it an issue during contract negotiations in October.
"I hear them say, 'It was nothing, it was nothing,' " he said. "But what I also hear is that they won't rule it out. My question is, are Wichitans, and Salinans, willing to make the noise to stop this?"Click the link to read the rest of the article; it's a good one.
Make no mistake: This story will not die, it's just beginning.
Friday, June 27, 2008
We have reversed that decision, and we now have a damn good chance of keeping that work in America. The views of our country are changing, and people are starting to understand how important good jobs are. So, yes, we CAN stop this. But it takes YOU on the shop floor to let management know that you won't take it lying down. We are proud, hard-working Americans, and we will fight for our jobs.