Fallout Continues As Boeing Considers Wichita's Future

By: KAKE News Email
By: KAKE News Email

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SPEEA Union and company leaders will meet Thursday, Deceber 1 to discuss the company's announcement that the future of the Wichita defense plant is under evaluation. SPEEA officials say they are calling on the company to honor its commitment to use the Wichita site for the U.S. Air Force KC-767 tanker program.

"Boeing consistently said it would bring jobs to Wichita if it won the contract," said Ray Goforth, SPEEA executive director. "At this time of congressional scrutiny of defense budgets, it would be a mistake to materially alter the tanker program they sold to the customer."

SPEEA members worked to help Boeing secure the tanker by writing letters, signing petitions and visiting state and congressional leaders in efforts to help the company secure the $35 billion tanker program.

"The engineers in Wichita are the world experts at building refueling tankers," Goforth said. "They can get the job done and provide the best value to the Air Force and the tax payer."

SPEEA officials say they are compiling members' concerns and will bring those to the meeting with Boeing.

International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers President Steve Rooney released the following statement Tuesday:

"Leaders from the Machinists Union will be trying to setup meetings with the Boeing Company, as well as reaching out to other leaders in our state and community, to do whatever we can, to see that Boeing stays here in Wichita."

"Labor Unions throughout Kansas, as well as our brothers and sisters in Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon worked very hard in writing letters and sending emails, as well as lobbying in Washington, D.C. to ensure that Boeing received the award on the Tanker. Through these many efforts, the Labor Unions demonstrated their loyalty to the Boeing Company and to all those who work for Boeing."

"Boeing, in turn, should be committed to return their loyalty, by allowing the modification work on the Tanker to be done in Wichita."

UPDATE: Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says he and the state's congressional delegation want to meet with Boeing Defense officials to understand why the company would consider leaving Wichita.

Boeing has said it's studying the future of the plant, including
a possible closing.

Brownback worked hard as a U.S senator to help Boeing secure a
$35 billion Air Force contract for a new refueling tanker. He noted Tuesday that Boeing made statements in April that much of the work
on the new tanker would be completed in Kansas.

"You wouldn't have the biggest contract you've got coming if it wasn't for the effort Kansas put into this," Brownback said. "Not that we were the only ones, we weren't."

The governor also said Wichita has the workforce to do the
tanker work and he wants a shot at competing for those jobs.

Kansas political leaders said there never was any expression on Boeing's part during the battle for the tanker that Wichita would be the finishing center only if a study showed it was competitive.

"The Boeing company needs to address this and tell us why today they've changed their view and now they're going to conduct a study to see if they're going to put it there," Congressman Mike Pompeo said.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A day after the Boeing Co. released a statement saying the aviation company is studying whether to leave the Air Capital, state and local leaders are continuing to voice their opposition.

Speaking at a small business forum at Newman University Tuesday morning, U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said he is offended at the prospect of Boeing leaving Wichita. Moran said he is disappointed to hear the news, after the Kansas delegation fought for the Boeing KC-tanker contract.

“What this means is jobs in Wichita and that's got to be the fight,” Moran said. “My focus is really to make certain that the business community, civic and business leaders rally around the cause of trying to make certain that Boeing does what they promised to do.”

Boeing had said the tanker deal could support 7,500 additional jobs in Kansas. Moran said Gov. Sam Brownback and other Kansas leaders learned that Boeing was considering closing the Wichita facility late last week.

Dave Unruh, Sedgwick County Commissioner Chair, commented on the situation while holding a tanker photograph Boeing gave to Commissioners. The aviation company thanked local leaders for their support, saying, “It’s a victory for tanker crews and for Kansas, where Boeing supports thousands of jobs and works with more than 450 suppiers across the state. We’re proud of our partnership with Kansas and look forward to a bright future working together.”

Unruh said he is aggravated about the announcement.

“When we work together so hard we would expect for them to keep their commitment,” Unruh said. “We challenge the company to find a way to make it work for the benefit of Kansans.”

Todd Tiahrt, former 4th District Congressman, consults for planemakers, including Boeing. He said that Boeing loses a half-million dollars a day by keeping the Wichita facility open.

“Boeing is looking for a stable competitive work force and right now we have some challenges for that here in Kansas,” Tiahrt said.

The Wichita facility employees about 2,100 employees. SPEEA represents about 550 Boeing engineers. The union said they did not have an advanced warning Boeing was considering closing the Wichita plant. Officials plan to meet with Boeing executives in the coming days and comment on the issue next week.

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