The event was held at the Machinists Building, located at 12365 St. Charles Rock Road, in Bridgeton.
Hundreds of union members and their families showed up as well to oppose a budget proposal by the U.S. Defense Department that would cut production of the C-17 cargo plane and F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet manufactured at Boeing. What’s at stake is 5,000 of 16,000 local Boeing jobs directly tied to the F/A-18, and another 900 jobs linked to the C-17 program at Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems division headquartered in Hazelwood. Six thousand additional jobs are supported directly and indirectly by the C-17 program in Missouri and Illinois, including dozens of independent parts suppliers.
“The elimination of the C-17 cargo plane and cutbacks in production of the F/A-18 fighter jet would not only have a negative impact on the local economy in terms of job losses in the ailing manufacturing sector, but also in the nation’s defense capabilities to produce the next generation of tactical aircraft,” said Mayor Robinson.
This same sentiment has been expressed by a Boeing official. “If C-17 and F/A-18 production dries up, Boeing probably won’t have the resources to maintain its factories and workforce until a new military aircraft can take their places. Should Boeing shut down its local aircraft production lines and dismantle its labor force, it would be too expensive to start them up again a few years from now,” said John Van Gels, Boeing’s vice president of operations and supplier management.
The C-17 is considered the world’s most versatile cargo plane, and it is the only military airlifter made in the United States. For more than a decade, C-17s have been built on time and on budget. The C-17 is flown for 80% of all strategic airlift missions and delivers 50% of all airlift cargo around the world. It is used for everything from transporting troops and supplies to the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan to food and other humanitarian aid in response to world-wide natural disasters.
Senators Bond and McCaskill support funding for the production of 15 additional C-17s. The House Appropriations Committee, through backing given by Congressmen Clay, Carnahan and Aiken, includes money for 8 additional C-17s in its supplemental defense appropriations bill last week. Bond said, if he had anything to do about it, he’ll make sure all 15 are added to the 2010 fiscal year budget when the bills for both houses are reconciled.
Although Boeing has invested more than $440 million in its St. Louis area facilities since 2000, the company’s future in St. Louis is in jeopardy if the U. S. Department of Defense follows through with its proposed cuts to the F/A-18 and C-17 programs. It could spell the beginning of the end for the company’s Integrated Defense Systems division, based in Hazelwood. Without these aircraft programs, Boeing would lose a base to spread its overhead costs. That overhead would fall to the F-15, which would increase the price, causing foreign buyers to cut or cancel their orders, leading to more local job losses and possibly a stoppage of production altogether.
Boeing is the second largest employer in both the St. Louis region and the state of Missouri. The company puts the estimated total economic impact of the F/A-18 and C-17 programs in Missouri and Illinois at about $2.1 billion dollars.
Mayor Robinson was interviewed by news reporters with KMOV-TV News 4, KTVI-TV FOX 2 News and KMOX Radio to express the city of Hazelwood’s support for the efforts to save these Boeing jobs. Defense remains a vital ingredient in Hazelwood’s diverse industry base. Boeing Co., which merged with McDonnell Douglas Corp. several years ago, and GKN Aerospace continue to operate several plants in Hazelwood. They provide thousands of good paying jobs for skilled workers living in communities throughout St. Louis County, St. Charles County, as well as on the Metro East side. Saving Boeing jobs would be good for Hazelwood and benefit the City’s efforts to continue the momentum of economic growth and development that has taken place since the closing of the Ford plant in 2006.