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Looming Machinist Strike Threatens Boeing, Airbus, & USAF

Workers Reject Spirit Aerosystems Contract Offer

Machinists in the employ of Spirit Aerosystems have voted to strike rather than accept a four-year contract proposed by executives of the Wichita, Kansas-based aerospace components and systems supplier.

Spirit AeroSystems Holdings is the world's largest first-tier aerostructures manufacturer. Companies under the first-tier of the aerospace industry’s supply-chain produce major aircraft components and systems—wings, fuselages, control systems, landing gear, and the like.

Spirit AeroSystems builds key facets of Boeing aircraft, including portions of 737 and 787 family fuselages and the cockpit sections (referred to in Boeing vernacular as Section 41) of nearly all the plane-makers commercial aircraft.

Spirit also produces fuselage sections and wing spars for Airbus’s A350.

Spirit's main competitors are Dallas, Texas’s Triumph Aerostructures -Vought Aircraft Division, Charlotte, North Carolina’s Collins Aerospace, Rome, Italy’s Leonarda S.p.A., and Tokyo, Japan’s Kawasaki Heavy Industries.

Following the strike vote’s announcement, Spirit set forth it planned to suspend factory production prior to expiration of its machinists’ current labor contract.

Spirit employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) have been asked to forgo reporting for work on Thursday, 23 June. Absences notwithstanding, the union workers will receive pay for their respective, regularly-scheduled work hours.

Contrariwise, non-union workers have been directed to report to work as usual.

The contract offered by Spirit’s management was resoundingly rejected. Some 79-percent of the 85-percent of IAM members who partook in the vote supported striking; only 21-percent opposed a walkout.

IAM set forth in a 21 June press release: "After 13 years without a fully-negotiated accord and years of working to keep Spirit AeroSystems a player in the game, approximately six-thousand members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 70, Local 839 have voted to reject Spirit's last best and final offer.”

A strike commenced at 00:01 CDT on the morning of Saturday, 24 June—immediately after the existing contract expired.

In a statement of its own, Spirit Aerosystems declared: "We are disappointed that our employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Wichita have rejected our four-year contract offer and have voted to strike. We believe that our fair and competitive offer recognizes the contributions of our employees and ensures we can successfully meet increasing demand for aircraft from our customers.

The company added: "We know that no one wins in a work stoppage; however, we respect the rights of our represented employees. Despite this setback, we are not distracted from the task at hand. We look forward to continued meetings with IAM leadership."

IAM member Steven Espinosa, who voted against the proffered contract in favor of a strike, stated: "That front page of that contract, everybody, when I first read it, I thought, 'Yeah, that looks good,' but then when I started dissecting it all and putting the numbers together, it got really bad really quick.”

Consistent with Mr. Espinosa’s assessment, the proposed contract’s wage increase provisions were vague—appearing initially to total 34-percent but, upon scrutiny, guaranteeing only 16-percent.

Numerous union members expressed concern over changes to the company's Core healthcare plan. Though the proposed contract touted minimal copay increases and reduced out-of-pocket maximums, workers repeatedly asserted the deal would jeopardize their access to needed medications.

"There was over one-thousand prescriptions covered originally. Now it's going down to like four-hundred," explained IAM member T.J. Tovar, who currently pays upwards of $600-per-month for a healthcare plan covering his wife, his three children, and himself. Under the provisions of the rejected contract, Mr. Tovar would pay out of pocket for an Adderall prescription he currently fills for $1.68.

"Every single medication I take for diabetes is off the list," Mr. Espinosa rued. "Now, I have to find all these medications, and it took a while to get those medications right. If this contract is accepted, I'm gonna have to start all over."

IAM members voted in March 2023 to authorize a strike in the event a favorable contract with Spirit Aerosystems proved unreachable. Union leaders recommended rejection of the latest contract proposal after a month-and-a-half of fruitless negotiations with Spirit’s management.

Thirty-seven-year Spirit employee John Akers voted to strike in 2023—just as he did in 1989 and 1985.

"There are some good provisions that have been made," Mr. Akers opined. "They're doing a small fraction of matching in our 401k. That's nice. That's the future really if you want to retire."

Mr. Akers was decidedly less impressed with a proposed one-time contract ratification bonus that offered workers $2,500 cash and $5,000 in company stock.

"They offered $5,000 worth of Spirit stock, which, if I wanted Spirit stock, I'd just go buy it," Akers deplored. "They could have just had that cash in a signing bonus. Probably would have helped a lot of people just vote yes really."

IAM member Michael Morgan expects the picketing in which he and his union brethren are making ready to engage will send a powerful message to Spirit’s executives.

"Daily for us, we will be on the picket line," Morgan avowed. "We will be out there making our voice heard, letting them know. They will see this crowd of all their workers standing out here supporting each other to fight for our rights."

IAM member Adrian Bolder added: "This isn't the last contract we'll be fighting for, so I feel like if we're heard now, if we stand our ground now, it'll pay dividends for the future.”

Mr. Tovar suggested the coming strike’s efficacy stands to be bolstered by Spirit's recent and successful efforts to broaden its customer base—which now includes the U.S. Armed Forces.

"Uncle Sam doesn't want a late shipment on a plane," Tovar perspicaciously observed.

FMI: https://ll839.org


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