Conference on Mexico's aviation canceled

A conference to promote Mexico's aerospace industry planned for next week in Wichita has been canceled due to lack of interest, an organizer said Wednesday.

Had it been held, the conference would have been met by protests from two of Wichita's largest unions — the Machinists union and the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.

Called Mexico's Aerospace Industry Conference: Industry Analysis, Off-shore Manufacturing, the all-day event had been scheduled for April 22 at the Hyatt Regency Wichita.

"There's no way a conference like that can come into Wichita and attack our core economy and plan to go unnoticed," said SPEEA Midwest director Bob Brewer.

"We're all trying to figure out how to get these employees back in the work force, and we sure don't need someone coming in and trying to convince companies to send additional work to Mexico."

Marketing materials for the event said attendees would learn about Mexico's competitive advantages, its business conditions, the developmental potential for the Mexican aviation industry and protection of intellectual property. And they would interact with Mexico's aerospace plant managers.

Organizer Sergio Ornelas, editor of MexicoNow magazine, learned of the planned union protests Wednesday after the decision had been made to cancel the event.

"I'm a little surprised," Ornelas said. But "labor has their own rights.... Times are hard, and we can certainly be understandable of people having a different opinion."

"The message we have is, of course, that all industries need a low-cost manufacturing platform for certain processes."

It would have been the first union protest at one of its conferences, Ornelas said.

During an event in Toulouse, France, last year, France's labor unions demonstrated a block from the hotel where it was held. But that was only a coincidence, Ornelas said.

Machinists union District 70 president Steve Rooney had a quick reaction when he learned the conference was canceled.

"That breaks my heart," Rooney said, tongue-in-cheek.

Details of a response were still in the planning stages, he said.

"We've lost how many jobs out of here, and they (Wichita's aviation manufacturers) keep shipping jobs to Mexico," Rooney said.

Had the conference taken place, Machinists union leaders "were going to be involved in trying to get something together," as a response, Rooney said.