Wichita It was only two years ago that striking machinists at Hawker Beechcraft accepted a hard-fought, three-year labor contract after nearly a month on the picket lines.
But that was before a global economic downturn that devastated the aircraft manufacturing industry. And before Louisiana reportedly offered the debt-ridden aircraft maker millions in incentives to lure its 6,000 jobs to Baton Rouge.
On Saturday, machinists will vote on a new seven-year contract offer that includes a 10 percent pay cut and other labor concessions. The contract requires a simple majority for approval and there is no strike vote.
“This is do or die, if it is turned down the company says they are going to move it,” said union spokesman Bob Wood.
People in this city, which calls itself the “Air Capital of the World,” were stunned this summer at the possibility of losing to Louisiana the company founded here by early aviation pioneer Walter Beech. The “New Louisiana Purchase” screamed one headline on a union flyer. Other invectives from frightened workers were equally shrill: the jobs were alternately styled as being poached or stolen. Some held a prayer vigil for their jobs.
Talks between the company and the union on a new contract began in August, a year before the current contract was set to expire.
Five major production lines will remain in Wichita.
Some 350 salaried layoffs announced earlier will be cut by Nov. 1. In addition, the union has estimated about 820 hourly jobs in its bargaining unit will be eliminated under the contract proposal.