WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Union employees at Spirit AeroSystems voted to strike Wednesday.

According to Union Leader Cornell Beard, 79% of union employees voted “no” to the proposed contract, and 85% voted to strike.

A federal mediator will be meeting with Spirit AeroSystems and Contract Negotiation Committee. Beard says that it will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

Spirit AeroSystems released the following statement on IAM’s vote to strike:

We are disappointed that our employees represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Wichita have rejected our four-year contract offer and have voted to strike. We believe that our fair and competitive offer recognizes the contributions of our employees and ensures we can successfully meet increasing demand for aircraft from our customers.

We know that no one wins in a work stoppage; however, we respect the rights of our represented employees. Despite this setback, we are not distracted from the task at hand. We look forward to continued meetings with IAM leadership.”

Spirit AeroSystems

Shortly after releasing the first statement, Spirit AeroSystems sent another one:

In light of the decision by Spirit IAM-represented employees to strike, Spirit will suspend factory production prior to the expiration of the contract. Beginning with start of first shift on Thursday, June 22, all IAM-represented employees are not to report for work but will receive pay for their regularly scheduled work hours. All scheduled overtime is canceled.

All employees not represented by the IAM should report to work as usual on Thursday.”

Spirit AeroSystems

Boeing also released a statement about the strike at Spirit AeroSystems:

We continue to monitor the situation and support our valued supplier.”

Connor Greenwood, Boeing media relations

The current contract between the Local Lodge 839 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM) and Spirit AeroSystems expires on June 23. Contract negotiations began on May 1.

On June 13, machinists union members rallied outside Spirit AeroSystems. They are trying to gain support for a better contract and say they will strike if they do not get it. Two days later, Spirit and IAM reached an agreement on a new contract, which led to Wednesday’s vote.

To view the contract, click here.

To keep up with the latest updates from IAM, click here.

Spirit employees represented by Machinists Union react to contract

Several Spirit employees represented by the union say they had major issues with the contract as written. 

“It just feels like a big kick in the teeth. It really does,” employee T.J. Tovar said.

Tovar has worked with Spirit AeroSystems for 12 years. He says he’s concerned medication he depends on will no longer be covered under the new contract if nothing changes.

“And so, if it’s me, imagine people that have children with special needs that need those special medications that aren’t covered anymore—that’s a big deal,” Tovar said. “I know there’s people, I get it, they live paycheck to paycheck. It’s kind of a tough decision, but I feel like, again, it’s a no-brainer.”

Another concern regards the Cost of Living Adjustment (or “COLA”) cap. According to Spirit, the 34% pay growth formula over the next four years includes a yearly “COLA” cap at 2.5%. However, some employees say they’re concerned that cap won’t actually be reached each year.

“If inflation goes above a certain percentage, and it has to meet that, then we get an extra 2.5% cap,” employee John Woosypiti said.

“So that’s not even guaranteed, the full 2.5,” Tovar said.

Tovar says he’s never had to strike while working for Spirit, but after Wednesday, he’s prepared to do so. 

“We’re not asking for a lot,” Tovar said. “We’re not. We’re really not. We’re just asking to be treated fairly. I wholeheartedly believe that.”