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Cessna Machinists voting today

Machinist union members at Cessna Aircraft Co. are voting today at Century II on whether to accept the company’s offer of a seven-year contract.

Polls close at 5 p.m.

Many workers came for the 10 a.m. meeting, which was held to go over the details of the contract.

Union leaders recommend that members reject the contract and strike, saying the contract doesn’t offer enough guarantees on the amount of work Cessna would keep in Wichita and that it significantly raises the cost of health insurance.

It’s not about money, said Ron Russell, a 36-year Cessna employee.

“I just wanted more job security,” Russell said about his reasons for voting to strike.

“I was ready and willing to take it on the chin for wages and stuff,” Russell said. “But I’m not willing to take it in the back. . . . I see all the takeaways.”

Russell said he’s wanted to build airplanes since he was a child. Now, he’s been told his job is moving to Mexico.

Don Blecha has worked at Cessna 35 years. His daughter and son-in-law work there as well. His wife and son were laid off from Cessna in the downturn.

Blecha said he’s ready to strike because he wants more job security for the generations coming behind him.

In the contract, the company guaranteed to keep only final assembly of its current Citation products for the life of the seven-year agreement.

He figures that would affect about two-thirds of the hourly workers at Cessna.

“There is virtually no job security,” Blecha said. “That’s the biggest thing to me.”

The change in health insurance is also a big issue for Blecha.

Others feel the same way.

“The insurance isn’t any good,” said Vince Chace, who’s worked at Cessna 13 years.

Roy Cavender, an 11-year employee, called the contract a “lose-lose situation.”

“From a strike, you lose; if you don’t strike, you lose,” Cavender said. “You are between a rock and a hard place.”

The union represents about 2,400 hourly workers at Cessna in Wichita. The current agreement expires Sunday.

If members ratify a strike, a work stoppage would begin at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Acceptance of the contract requires a simple majority of those voting. A strike requires two-thirds of members voting. If not enough vote to strike, the contract will be ratified by default.

Check back with Kansas.com for updates.

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