WICHITA, KANSAS, Aug. 4 — Over 100 striking Machinists closed down the Hawker-Beechcraft plant here today with mass pickets. Earlier, 4,700 workers in IAM (International Association of Machinists) Local Lodge 733 (Wichita) and 500 in IAM Local Lodge 2328 (Salina, Ks.) voted 90% to reject the new contract and 89% to strike the same day — the first strike since 1984.
Everyone’s wondering how this relates to a possible strike early next month at Boeing because the issues are so similar. Even IAM International President Buffenbarger had to acknowledge the obvious: “It looks like workers are not going to take it anymore,” he admitted. The “rolling thunder” — the militant deafening banging every hour, on the hour — that has already started in the Boeing plants indicates he may have got it right.
Like Boeing, Hawker wants to separate new hires from veterans with cuts in earned time off, cuts in two job codes that will affect new hires and hidden costs in medical benefits for new hires. A veteran machinist Terri Holloway said: “If we don’t fight for the new people, they’re going to get the old people next.”
None of this should come as a surprise as Hawker was recently taken over — with the union’s blessing — by Onyx (in partnership with Wall Street Investment bankers Goldman Sacks). Onyx is the same outfit that grabbed Boeing’s Wichita plant and immediately cut wages.
To add insult to injury, Hawker leaked a secret plan to develop a final assembly plant in Chihuahua, Mexico. The threat (and fact) of moving more work to low-wage areas in the U.S. and Mexico has changed the face of aerospace. Narrow trade unionism has become a sick joke.
Aerospace is crucial to the bosses’ imperialist ambitions. As challenges to U.S. rulers’ dominance mount daily (witness Russia’s incursion into Georgia and China’s emergence during the Olympics), the bosses are determined to reindustrialize on our backs. War becomes the more likely option and we’re going to fund that war machine with our lives and livelihoods. In 2001, the Pentagon called for “competitive outsourcing” (Aerospace Daily, 2/3/2001). Now they want to build a “southern aerospace corridor” — taking advantage of low wages in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama caused by years of racist super-exploitation.
As expected the bosses’ servants in the union mis-leadership wave the American flag. We, on the other hand, wave the red flag of communist class-consciousness. Same enemy, same fight, workers of the world unite!