Opinion Columns & Blogs

Bob Martinez: Join fight to save local aviation jobs

It's not every day a city can stand up and boast, "We're No. 1!" Wichita can.

A recent Brookings Institution study found Wichita was the No. 1 American metropolitan area in export growth. The "aviation cluster" was the reason given for the strong export record. Aviation is the last great American industry, one in which we lead the world, and Wichita is the Air Capital.

While this is something to cheer, we are at a dangerous point in this city's proud history. We could quickly drop our title and instead be an exporter of jobs.

While Spirit AeroSystems and Bombardier Aerospace have committed to Wichita, Hawker Beechcraft is threatening to move thousands of jobs, and Cessna Aircraft recently opened another plant in Mexico.

The threat is real, and the situation is serious. We've lost so many jobs because of the economic downturn; we can't afford to lose them all permanently.

The Machinists union's No. 1 goal is keeping the jobs in Wichita. We proved that by working with Spirit AeroSystems, forging a groundbreaking 10-year agreement in exchange for a commitment to keeping the jobs here. Last year we negotiated a good agreement with Bombardier that helped it commit to Wichita for the long haul, too.

However, we can't do it alone. The forces driving corporations to move factories are strong, pitting nation against nation and state against state. It requires our elected officials to get involved.

Other states would pay millions of dollars to take our jobs. Wichita can't allow that to happen. It will destroy the local economy, and we will never be able to replace those jobs. They will be gone forever.

Wichita and Kansas have invested far too much in this industry to let it slip away in the dead of the night.

The Machinists union believes these are jobs worth fighting for, and we urge our elected officials and our community to join us to fight to keep these jobs. Our aerospace companies should commit to keeping the jobs in Wichita, and the city and state should reward such commitments with the full power of the government to support them. The Machinists stand ready to partner with these companies to make them more competitive and productive, for a bright future for everyone.

Our companies are the best in the business — industry leaders with great products that are the best in the world. It will take the union, the companies and the government to stand together to weather the current downturn and come out stronger.

We've come so far together, Wichita and aviation. Let's not be the generation to see that great partnership end.