WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Workers at the Bombardier Learjet plant in Wichita are striking after voting Saturday to reject a contract that would have increased health care costs. On Monday morning, traffic at the only gate open to non-striking employees backed up more than three miles as picketers briefly stopped vehicles attempting to enter. Company spokeswoman Peggy Gross says the aircraft manufacturer is seeking more control over such things as how long picketers can hold up cars trying to enter the plant. She says the company plans to continue production, delivery and servicing of aircraft during the strike. Machinists' spokesman Tony Larkin says the union is ready to negotiate anytime. He says workers recognize the aircraft market has slowed down. But he adds all the burden cannot be placed on workers without sacrifices by those at the top.
**the following is a previous version of the story, featuring reporting from Dan Dillon at KFDI Radio.**
Machinists union members went on strike at midnight at the Bombardier Learjet plant in west Wichita. KFDI Radio reports that sign-carrying union members were walking back and forth at the Tyler Road entrance to the plant early today (MON), under large spotlights. Around 6 am, one officer said traffic on Tyler Road was nearly impassable because of slow-moving cars. A vote on a proposed contract took place on Saturday, and union officials say 95% of the 825 union members voted. 79% of those cast a ballot in favor of staging a strike. The union specifically pointed to disagreements with Bombardier Learjet over workers' health care benefits and the proposed length of the contract. Union members told KFDI that the proposed one-percent-a-year raise over the length of the contract was not ideal, but acceptable. However, the real sticking point had to do with an increase in health insurance costs; union members said paying an extra $100 or more a month for health insurance was not something they could tolerate. This is only the second strike in the plant's history. Workers staged a three-week strike in 2006.