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Contractor Strike At McConnell AFB Enters Sixth Week

IAMAW Local Lodge 708
Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union began their strike at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita on Feb. 12.

A contractor strike at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita is entering its sixth week.

Seventeen machinists union members who work for FlightSafety Services Corporation walked off the job in mid-February. The workers rejected FlightSafety’s contract offer because the agreement did not include a government designation that determines wages. Last week, union members rejected a "return-to-work" agreement.

Union spokesman Scott Gardner says without the designation, union members at McConnell AFB are paid 45 percent less than their counterparts working in the same industry.

"In the end, it’s about justice," Gardner says. "It’s about doing the right thing, and sometimes members, especially these members, are willing to make that sacrifice in order to correct the situation."

Gardner says workers plan to continue a strike line until a new contract is approved. The striking workers recently received care boxes of food donations and hygiene products from members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.

"It’s, of course, difficult," Gardner says, "especially for the members who have young children at home who have lost their healthcare insurance and obviously full paycheck."

The Air Force hired FlightSafety to maintain the KC-46 training simulator at McConnell, and to oversee the training program for pilots and refueling boom operators.

Gardner says the union is awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Department of Labor on whether the group can be designated as part of the Service Contract Act, a government rule that defines wages and benefits for contractors and subcontractors.

A spokesman for FlightSafety says discussions with the union continue, and the company is getting closer to reaching an agreement.