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Boeing May Not Work on KC-46A in Kansas

Update – It has been reported that Boeing has called a mandatory meeting of all its Wichita employees tomorrow. It is also been reported that part of the new contract with the Machinists requires the KC-46A work to be done in Washington if the Wichita site closes.

Previously Boeing (BA) has done a great deal of their work on military and government aircraft at their facility in Wichita, KS. This has included the VC-25 Air Force One version of the 747, the KC-135 tankers and the E-4A command and control aircraft. It was assumed, especially by the Kansas Congressional delegation, that much of the work on the new KC-46A tanker would also be done at the facility.

Now word is leaking out that Boeing is planning on doing all of the necessary tanker effort at their main facility in Everett, WA. The 767 that will be converted to the tankers will be assembled there but rather then being militarized in Wichita they will remain in Washington. This, understandably, has roiled the media, the workers in Kansas and various Senators and Congressmen.

They feel that their support for Boeing to win the contract is now wasted as rather then seeing more work Boeing could be eliminating jobs and laying people off in Kansas.

Boeing has stated that until they understand fully the effects of changes in the U.S. defense budget that they won’t commit to announcing anything about the Wichita plant and their overall work structure. This may not be until later this year. It had been estimated that over 7,000 jobs will be created by the KC-46A militarization and support efforts with the idea that those jobs would be in Kansas. Now that is not guaranteed.

This may be an effect of the new contract Boeing signed with their main union that allowed them to successfully get the U.S. government to drop action against the company for opening a new facility in South Carolina. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) had filed a complaint against the company stating that the only reason Boeing expanded to South Carolina was to retaliate against unions in Washington. This was dropped after the company signed a new deal with the union that promised to keep a great deal of jobs in the Northwest.

Boeing intends to use the South Carolina facility to support commercial 787 production.

If the company does not send KC-46A work to Wichita it will cause severe problems with its relations to that state’s Congressional delegation which has in the past been very supportive of Boeing. The next few months could be very interesting for the company, the U.S. aerospace industry and Kansas.

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Boeing Unions Support Single Source Contract

According to The Seattle Pilot-Intelligencer the International Association of Machinists District 751 wrote to the new Build Them Both Coalition that they support Boeing’s bid for the KC-X. They were responding to a letter sent to them by Build Them Both. The IAM argued that a split buy would not meet their goals of maximizing Washington jobs.

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AFL-CIO Endorses Awarding KC-X Contract To Boeing

At the AFL-CIO Now Blog there is a story about the ten presidents of the AFL-CIO state federations sending a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates endorsing giving the tanker contract to Boeing. The union heads state that this is not only in the best interests of U.S. national security but also as an industrial base issue.

One of the reasons the U.S. is where it is at with this contract is that there is only one domestic source for the aircraft, Boeing. The only other manufacturer that can be really considered is EADS. To achieve any level of competition they have to be included otherwise the U.S. should just go back to the sole source lease idea shot down in 2001 – 2003.

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