Machinists vow new approach to talks with Spirit

Leaders of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers are calling for a new approach to upcoming contract talks with Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita.

“It is time to move beyond the old ways of bargaining that have been used since the 1930s,” said IAM&AW President Tom Buffenbarger in a letter to union members. “We must find ways to move forward where both the company and the workers benefit together, neither one profiting at the expense of the other in adversarial roles.”

This new approach is being embraced by Spirit’s management, The Wichita Eagle reports. Spirit CEO Jeff Turner has circulated a memo among the company’s top leaders that says both sides are committed to a process that makes “this company healthy and keeps our team for the future intact … We are true partners with the IAM in achieving these goals.”

The contract between Spirit and the roughly 6,000 members of Local Lodge 839 in Wichita expires on June 25. However the union bargaining team has already met for training, and part of that included preliminary meetings with Turner and Spirit’s vice president of labor relations, Sam Marnick. Turner was in charge of Boeing’s Wichita operations before the company spun them off.

Spirit is a key supplier to Boeing’s operations in Puget Sound. It supplies the fuselages for the 737 program and builds almost all the cockpits used on all Boeing commercial jets. Local Lodge 839 is part of IAM District 70, which also includes about 600 members who work in Boeing’s Defense, Space & Services division in Wichita.

Both sides said they are exploring a completely new collective bargaining model that would protect the interests of IAM members while bringing long-term stability to employment and production. The two sides are not revealing details at this point, but if successful, the union says, it will mean no more business as usual.

“What we do here during the next six months will chart the course for this industry, our members and our nation for years to come,” Buffenbarger said. “We must organize and work to save and grow jobs in America, instead of in China and Mexico. We’ve lost too many jobs to runaway companies. While we still can, we must save the aerospace industry.”

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