Boeing bosses had threatened to begin production of the new 777X plane in another state if the union did not concede to the company’s terms. A first vote held Nov. 13 rejected the contract by a 2-1 majority. Boeing then submitted a second proposal, which District 751 officials said they refused to organize a vote on because there was no significant improvement. But the union’s national leadership mandated a vote over the local’s objections.
The contract, which lasts until 2024, includes a freeze on pensions for current workers, ends pensions for new hires, increases employee medical insurance expenses, raises wages by only 0.5 percent annually and contains a no-strike clause. Workers will get a $10,000 contract-signing incentive and another $5,000 “bonus” in 2020.
“Boeing’s proposals on pay and benefits will mean decreases in your take-home pay,” said a letter sent from Machinists District 751 to members.
Speakers at a rally of several hundred Machinists and other unionists Jan. 2 urged a “no” vote.
“Do we have to give corporate America whatever they want whenever they want it?” Shannon Ryker, a mechanic at Boeing’s plant in Everett, said at the rally. “A ‘yes’ vote weakens the collective bargaining process not only for us but for other unions as well. We are fighting for the future of unions.”
Company threats to relocate if workers rejected the concessions were taken up by local politicians and media to increase pressure on the Machinists.
After the Nov. 13 vote, the Seattle Times ran a series on the possible states where Boeing could build the 777X plane, which included Utah, California, South Carolina and Alabama.
Jay Inslee, the newly elected governor of Washington, and Congressman Rick Larsen, both Democrats, were among those pressing for a second vote. Local mayors from Renton and Everett, where the main Boeing plants are located, urged unionists to accept the contract.
“This is about corporate greed,” Heath Ronning told the Militant outside the Jan. 3 vote at the union hall in Renton. “This is a no-win situation.”
“I voted yes,” said Khoeum Preap, who works at a Boeing office near the plant. “At least we’ll still have jobs.”
Machinists International President Tom Buffenbarger issued a statement welcoming the result: “For decades to come, the entire region will benefit from the economic activity and technological innovations that will accompany the production of the 777X and 737 MAX.”
“I am beside myself,” said Eugene Riggs, who works at the Everett plant. “Not only with the outcome, but the way it was forced upon us. Boeing did a very good job of instilling fear in a lot of people. But we aren’t done yet. District Lodge 751 is defiant in spite of being divided.”
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