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SPEEA Ready to Help in Wake of Boeing Plant Closing

By Stuart Elliott
News | January 4, 2012

WICHITA, Kan. - The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA) is calling on The Boeing Company to meet all commitments to employees here who worked diligently to help secure the $35 billion U.S. Air Force KC-767 tanker program only to learn Wednesday morning the plant is being shuttered and their work is going elsewhere.

A formal letter was sent to Boeing within hours of the announcement to start the process to schedule and hold effects bargaining for the 550 represented engineers at the plant.

"We've began talking to Boeing immediately," said SPEEA President Tom McCarty. "We will be working very hard to find the best outcome for the people we represent at Boeing Wichita."

While noting there are not a lot of answers yet, McCarty said the union is getting the pieces in place to do everything it can to help members transfer to new jobs, relocate or meet other career needs. McCarty said the company also needs to pay attention to retaining the skills of its Wichita engineers.

"These engineers are experts in their fields and Boeing can't afford to lose those skills," McCarty said.

In September, Wichita engineers agreed to a two-year contract extension with Boeing. Originally set to expire Dec. 2, 2011, the contract locks in terms through Dec. 2, 2013.

Wichita Boeing was slated to do the final modifications on the KC-767 tanker after the planes were assembled in Everett, Washington. During an all-employee meeting at the Wichita plant this morning, Boeing officials said tanker work will land in Everett, Washington. Other programs from Wichita will go to Oklahoma City and San Antonio, Texas. Boeing said the major transition will begin in the third quarter of 2012.

In addition to refueling tankers, recent work at the Wichita plant includes B-52 modifications, maintaining Air Force One, and the 737 Wedgetail program.


2 Comments

Stuart, I'm now a semi retired farmer, but I belonged to the IAM and I'm still a strong advocate and supporter of Organized Union representation of employees, what ever the profession or trade. Keep up the good work. In spite of what the right wing conservative spokespersons say, unions are not the primary cause of our economic problems, today. Union Representation never hurt Boeing or Wichita.

It's hard for me to think of Wichita, without Boeing Airplane Company. Boeing, Beech, and Cessna made Wichita the Air Captital of the World.

I worked in tooling during the 1950s. Got in on the tail end of B47 work and helped build some of the first major assembly 'jigs' for the B52s.

Rock Road, Ridge Road, N37th and Mac Arthur Road were essentially the bounderies of the City. A friend and I hunted rabbits East of Oliver and North of Harry St. I think it was Tyler Road that I and a couple other guys hauled water, one weekend, to settle the dust in a new housing project area. My wife graduated from Andover H.S. with about 18 or 20 in her class.

Had Boeing shut down then, it would have been a near knock out blow for the City. I think there was something like 35,000 employees at the peak in those years. Former Boeing employees and the small jobbers, scattered around town and their employees can be proud of the heritage. Wichita has expanded and diversified greatly since those days. I hope the present employees will be able to relocate and continue to be productive and active members of their communities, where ever they go. Hopefully, Wichita will be able to absorb most of them and they can continue to be proud residents of a fine city and the State of Kansas.

I enjoyed my years at Boeing and the precision challenges of building the tools to assemble the world's best and longest flying big aircraft. I made it to the upper grades in the tooling dept. Never made management. But, I was born to farm and for the last 50 some years I've enjoyed the tilling, planting, and harvesting of wheat and corn, as well as the breeding and management of those critters that put the tastiest steaks on your plates. I love the wide open spaces of NW KS.

I've cut back to a near hobby size farming operation and spend much of my time entertaining, agitating, and encourageing others with these high tech typing tools and the world wide reach of the internet. It sure would have been nice to have had a word processor and the internet when I enrolled in English 101, at Wichita University (Adult Education Class, with no college credit hours). It wasn't a State school in those days. My tools consisted of the kitchen table, a ball point pen, tablet, and Webster's dictionary.


Stuart--Thanks for the update on this issue. While I have questioned the ethics of supporting a company that builds war machinery, I also question the ethics of this company leaving so many people in the lurch. I'm acquainted with two of these people. One has worked as an engineer for Boeing all his working life. He has roots here and friends that him with his daughter--he's a single father. The other is the husband of a friend. He was sent to Seattle last year to work and gets home on weekends every so often. Neither one of them wants to move to Seattle, or anywhere else, for that matter.

Some people are blaming the unions for the Boeing betrayal. It's not the unions. It's profit-hungry management. I'm glad to hear the union is standing behind these people.


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