Cessna's initial offer to Machinists includes wage cut

09/02/2010 6:20 PM

09/02/2010 6:20 PM

Machinist union members at Cessna Aircraft picketed near the company's plant in southwest Wichita on Thursday to protest jobs being sent outside the city.

Members fought strong, gusty afternoon winds and carried signs that read "Keep it Made in Wichita," "Outsourcing is Treason" and "We built the Air Capital," as they picketed at K-42 and Hoover roads. Some carried American flags.

"We've got to protect our jobs here in Wichita," said Dean Crabb, an avionics flight line lead, who's worked at Cessna 15 years. "We've already sent enough down there (to Mexico).... We're definitely worried about them moving more out of here."

Cessna and the Machinists union are in the midst of contract negotiations. The current contract expires Sept. 19. About 2,300 hourly workers at Cessna are covered by the agreement.

Hawker Beechcraft also has reopened negotiations with the union as it considers sending work to Louisiana, Mississippi and outside the country.

Cessna's initial proposal is for a 10-year agreement that cuts wages 4.2 percent, weakens job security, replaces the pension plan with a 401(k) plan and increases the share of the cost of health insurance paid by the workers to 30 percent, said union spokesman Bob Wood.

"There's no job security in the current proposal," Wood said.

Paulette Blackmon , a seamstress, has worked for Cessna for 13 years sewing aircraft seats. She's working six days a week, most of them 10-hour days.

"Textron (Cessna's parent company) feels like they need to take and take and take," Blackmon said. "Sitting at a sewing machine for 10 hours is very hard to do. They feel like we don't deserve what we're getting."

Darren Hise, a computer numerical control operator who's worked at Cessna 14 years, brought his wife, Cynthia, and 6-year-old twins Brooke and Blake to the rally.

They want to get a good contract and protect jobs.

"They're trying to cut our wages and take our pension," Hise said.

"Wichita is based on aircraft," said Cynthia Hise. "If you don't get a good contract...."

Darren Hise finished her sentence. "It's going to hurt the whole economy in Wichita."

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