Boeing purchases GKN Aerospace saving 420 union jobs


BOEING is purchasing GKN Aerospace, saving the Hazelwood factory location from closure and preserving about 420 union jobs. – FL360aero photo

Hazelwood, MO — Boeing’s defense arm announced last week it has reached a deal to purchase key supplier GKN Aerospace, saving the north St. Louis County factory that was set to wind down operations by the end of the year. Boeing, which had previously owned GKN until selling it off in 2001, said the facility is critical to the production of its fighter jets.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) applauded the agreement, which will impact approximately 420 IAM Local 837 (District 837) members who currently produce aircraft parts for various U.S. Defense Department platforms, including the F-15, F-18A, CH-53, and Advanced Programs. The facility was previously owned by the Boeing Co. but was purchased by GKN in 2001. In 2018, GKN was bought by British parent company Melrose Industries.

IAM 837 President/Directing Business Representative Tom Boelling said members will get to keep their pay, with a raise for going to Boeing and get to keep the service time they earned at GKN.

“If you had, say 20 years with GKN, you’ll get four weeks vacation with Boeing and six sick days, and start medical coverage on day one,” Boelling said. “And the pay scale at Boeing is higher than GKN. They’ll make $4 to $10 more an hour.”

Boelling said there were about 550 employees at GKN when the closure was initially announced 2022 and about 435 union members.

“Some of the younger newer people, they went ahead and saw the writing on the wall. Some of them quit and went to Boeing. Others just wanted to retire. We had volunteer layoffs last year with severance. The next one was coming up.

“This is really good for everybody,” Boelling said. “Boeing needs the workers. They’re very skilled workers at GKN, and Boeing is talking about bringing more work into that facility. It’s a good thing.”

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page also praised the deal.

“This is great news for St. Louis County and the entire region, preserving hundreds of union jobs,” Page said.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

GKN Aerospace originally announced plans to shut down the facility completely by the end of 2023. However, IAM worked with Missouri elected officials and the community to preserve the family-sustaining jobs at GKN. The IAM wrote letters to U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley and U.S. Reps. Cori Bush, Ann Wagner, Sam Graves, Billy Long, and Vicky Hartzler to ask for their assistance in saving the IAM-represented manufacturing jobs and support workers at the Hazelwood facility.

Steve Parker, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Boeing’s defense business, said in a statement the deal is a win for Boeing, GKN workers and St. Louis. Boeing has a 16,000-person St. Louis-area workforce.

“Boeing is growing across the region with a healthy backlog of current programs while also seeking future opportunities,” Parker said. “This agreement allows us to not only deliver for our customers, but also gives the highly skilled GKN workforce the opportunity to bring their immense talents to bear in support of the warfighter and the St. Louis defense and aerospace industry.”

The purchase comes at a critical time for Boeing.

The U.S. Navy just awarded Boeing a $1.3 billion contract for 17 more F/A-18 fighters, and President Joe Biden’s administration is pushing an $18 billion deal with Israel for up to 50 F-15 jets, one of the largest arms deals with the country in years. Both planes are assembled here in St. Louis.

Boeing also is preparing to compete against defense giant Lockheed Martin for the U.S. Air Force’s next generation fighter and beginning an $1.8 billion expansion of its facilities surrounding St. Louis Lambert International Airport.

“Boeing needs the workers,” Boelling said. “They’re very skilled workers at GKN and Boeing is talking about bringing more work into that facility. This is a really good thing for everybody.

“The amount of work they have, they can’t hire enough people. They’re bringing them in like you can’t believe,” Boelling said. “As a worker we have to make this work, because if they succeed, we succeed.”

Site work began recently on construction of an aircraft assembly building that is part of the expansion project.

Boeing estimates completion of the assembly building in 2026.

“This is a great win for Boeing as well as GKN St. Louis and their 550 employees,” Jason Hall, CEO of the economic development agency Greater St. Louis Inc., said in a statement. “It is also a great win for the St. Louis metro and our advanced manufacturing sector. This announcement continues our economic momentum as we look forward to Boeing’s $1.8 billion expansion at the airport.”

(Some information from the St. Louis Business Journal and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.)


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