Labor Expert: 'Cessna Has The Upper Hand' In Contract Vote

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Friday, September 17, 2010

The Machinists union is asking members to reject Cessna's contract offer and vote to strike Saturday at Century II. Meanwhile, a labor expert says management has the upper hand and is taking advantage of it.

Union members at Cessna say they feel like the company is backing them into a corner. A long time labor observer says, blame the economy.

"They do have the upper hand," Martin Perline, PhD, Wichita State University Economics, Labor Relations professor. "There's no question who has the upper hand. Cessna has the upper hand."

The WSU expert on labor relations says there are a lot of forces working against labor in the current economic environment. Those include high unemployment at 9.6% nationally, and the fact the general aviation industry has yet to regain any altitude since crashing two years ago.

"Thinking over the years," Perline recalls, "I can't think of a time when, in this particular case, management has had a better situation than right now in terms of negotiation."

Perline says that's demonstrated in what Cessna is offering the union. "I mean these are the poorest offers made from a company to the union in a long time," he says.

Cessna is standing by the offer saying it's fair given the economic environment and condition of the aviation industry.

The union feels like they're getting slapped with by Cessna's upper hand. Steve Rooney, Machinist Union District President says, "It's not about who has the upper hand and let's take it to the other one. It should be about trying to work together." Rooney says the longer term agreement, a 7-year deal instead of 3, should be worth something to the company.

"What's 7 years of labor peace worth to you?," Rooney asks. Rooney says the contract offer weakens job security instead of providing more security. "With the recent announcement of building their fourth facility in Mexico, what are they going to move to there? What products are they moving?" Rooney continues.

Still, experts say unions might be victims of contract timing. Just as they benefited three years ago during better time since the last negotiation.

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