Boeing and the Canadian investment firm that bought Boeing's plants in Wichita and Oklahoma targeted older workers for layoffs resulting...

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WICHITA, Kan. — Boeing and the Canadian investment firm that bought Boeing’s plants in Wichita and Oklahoma targeted older workers for layoffs resulting from the purchase, a Wichita law firm said.

Lawrence Williamson, an attorney with Shores, Williamson & Ohaebosim, sent letters to Boeing and to Onex, notifying them of his firm’s plans to file a class-action lawsuit alleging age discrimination.

The sale of the Boeing Wichita commercial aircraft operation and plants in Tulsa and McAlester, Okla., was completed yesterday, creating a new company called Mid-Western Aircraft Systems. Williamson’s letter said the deal has “targeted and led to the illegal displacement of individuals above the age of 40.”

Seeking clients

Williamson sent a second letter to Boeing employees who might be covered by the class action. It said his firm planned to file an age discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Monday.

By law, he said, the plaintiffs must wait until 60 days after the filing of the EEOC complaint to sue.

In preparation for the transition to the new company, Boeing issued layoff notices to all employees in its commercial aircraft plants in Kansas and Oklahoma. Toronto-based Onex made its job offers two weeks ago, but about 1,100 workers were told they would not be retained.

No lead plaintiff has been designated, and Williamson said he does not know how many Boeing workers who were not offered jobs with Mid-Western Aircraft Systems will join the lawsuit.

Grievances filed

Nigel Wright, Onex’s managing director, declined comment about the allegations.

Craig Martin, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing, said, “It would be inappropriate to speculate on something that may occur in the future.”

Last week, a labor union at the Wichita plant filed two grievances with Boeing over layoffs stemming from the sale. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), the second-largest union at the Wichita plant, claims the layoffs were made without regard to the retention process specified by the union’s labor contract. It also alleges that Boeing did not follow procedures to protect union officials by putting them in the top retention group.

To cut costs, Onex has instituted a 10 percent wage cut for members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Last month, the Machinists narrowly rejected a contract offer that included the pay cut and higher health insurance premiums. But after that proposal was rejected, Onex announced it would implement the pay cut anyway.

Last week, the electrical workers overwhelmingly approved a 5-year contract offer. Onex still has to negotiate contracts with the Machinists and SPEEA.

Material from the Wichita Eagle is included in this report.