EDITORIAL: No one would win in Cessna strike

Sept. 17, 2010


Sept. 16--Wichita does not need a Machinists union strike, which will only hurt Cessna Aircraft and its work force and further ground down the local economy. With union leaders recommending that the members vote Saturday to reject the company's offer and strike Monday, this is a perilous moment for the community.

Strikes are brutal on Wichita in the best of times, which these are not.

Even a short-lived strike by the affected 2,400 hourly workers at Cessna would have a sharp impact on the area, in the form of less work for company suppliers, less business for retailers where Cessna workers shop, and less tax revenue for state and local governments.

No one will win.

It's understandable that union members are unhappy with the seven-year contract, which reportedly includes a 160 percent increase in health insurance premiums and only annual cost-of-living increases the first four years and, for some workers, annual 1 percent general wage increases the final three years.

But the contract retains the pension plan and even improves some benefits, also providing bonuses and the ability to reopen wage talks in four years.

Union members need to step back and do an unflinching assessment of the reality of general aviation, which has seen sales fall off a cliff since 2008.

Job security is scarce throughout the economy these days. Many other hardworking south-central Kansans -- having lived through the layoffs, furloughs, and salary and benefits cuts of the past few years -- will see the contract's terms as tough but hardly "extreme and punitive measures," in the words of Machinists District 70 directing business representative Steve Rooney.

Wichita's aircraft companies already feel the pull of other states and countries where labor and other costs would be cheaper.

Machinists union members take deserved pride in their skills, work, dedication and value to the company, community and nation. But they also need to be pragmatic and far-sighted. How they vote could help determine whether there will be jobs for Wichita's aviation work force once the global market demand rebounds.

Until the union members vote Saturday, the community can only hope for the best and steel itself for the worst.

-- For the editorial board, Rhonda Holman