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Rally Celebrates Pratt & Whitney Success

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(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

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EAST HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Hundreds of workers and executives
at jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney joined Monday with lawmakers
they had previously been at odds with to celebrate the successes of
the company, which is now the sole manufacturer of the Pentagon’s
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jet engine.

The group gathered at a giant hangar to laud the decision in
February by the U.S. Air Force to award a $35 billion contract to
build airborne refueling tankers to Boeing Co., which will benefit
Pratt & Whitney. They also hailed the decision in March by Congress
to halt production of an alternate engine developed by General
Electric Co.

The buoyant message was in stark contrast to Pratt & Whitney’s
insistence in 2009 and 2010 to shut two engine repair shops in
Connecticut, eliminating 1,000 jobs as it transferred engine repair
work to Georgia and Asia to cut costs.

Jet engine manufacturer GE Aviation, based in Evendale, Ohio,
offered last week to fund continued development of the recently
terminated alternate engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
through 2012.
A House panel has moved toward reviving the engine over the
objections of President Barack Obama and Defense Secretary Robert
Gates, who have strongly opposed the program, calling it wasteful
spending.

“These were big victories not only for the people of Pratt and
Whitney, the people that are here in this hangar today, but really
for the American taxpayer and for the war fighter,” said Pratt &
Whitney President David Hess.

The projects will stimulate production of thousands of engines
manufactured at the company’s Middletown plant, he said.

“It’s going to mean jobs for Connecticut and continued growth
for Pratt & Whitney here in the state of Connecticut,” Hess said.

On Monday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Sen. Joe Lieberman and
Democratic Reps. John Larson and Rosa DeLauro praised Pratt &
Whitney and the machinists and engineers who work at the company,
but elected officials strongly criticized Pratt & Whitney when it
announced the job cuts in September 2009.

Then-U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd called the decision shameful,
and Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut’s former attorney general who
has succeeded Dodd, joined a lawsuit by the International
Association of Machinists to block Pratt & Whitney’s decision in
shutting down the plants.

Pratt & Whitney, which is owned by United Technologies Corp.,
and the Machinists union fought in court in 2009 and 2010 over the
shutdowns. Two federal court decisions sided with the union, and
the two sides agreed in a contract last year to shut the plants but
provide severance and other benefits for affected workers.

The promise of more work has helped improve relations between
the two sides, with Hess referring to the workers as “our
partners.”

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