Boeing Decision
12:05 pm
Sat December 21, 2013

Boeing Machinists Will Vote On Company's Contract Offer

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story stated voting will take place on Jan. 3. However, according to a spokesman for the union's international headquarters, the exact date is still being finalized.

Local Boeing machinists will have a chance to vote on the company's "best and final" offer, the acceptance of which would guarantee assembly of the next 777 wide-body jet and the fabrication of the plane's carbon-fiber wing for the Puget Sound region.  

The date of the vote hasn't yet been finalized, said Frank Larkin, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers headquarters in Maryland, though he said it could happen as soon as Jan. 3rd. Larkin said details of the proposal will be shared with members "within days," then released to the media and the public.

But a schism between local union leaders and their international leadership that became evident last month has now widened. Leaders of District Lodge 751 say the vote is being forced on them by the international headquarters of the union.

"Because of the massive takeaways, the Union is adamantly recommending members reject this offer," leaders of District Lodge 751 wrote on the group's website. They wrote that members need to "look at the facts of the economic destruction they would live under for the next 11 years."

News of the vote was first reported by the Seattle Times and confirmed by Wilson Ferguson, president of Local A of District Lodge 751 of the machinists' union. The website of the IAM/Woodworkers District W24 Lodge, whose workers are in the same bargaining unit, says the vote will take place on Jan. 3. The website of District Lodge 751 also says the vote will happen on Jan. 3.

The offer has been up in the air since Dec. 12 when Boeing said talks had broken off and local leaders had rejected the company's best and final offer.

District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski said he and other local leaders couldn't recommend the offer to members, saying it was almost identical to one the members voted on last month and turned down by a two-to-one margin. Then a faction of machinists launched a social media campaign to push the union to bring the offer to a vote, including staging a rally outside the local's Everett union hall earlier this week.

International Overrides Local

Ferguson says leaders of the union's international headquarters in Maryland decided to force the vote, overriding the desires of the local leaders. 

"There's got to be a creative solution, but this all-or-nothing ultimatum is what has me upset," Ferguson said. "People will be pretty irate when they realize it's being forced on us."

He said the leaders of the international are only concerned with collecting "uninterrupted dues, and they don't have our best interests at heart."

Larkin, the spokesman for the international headquarters, says the timing of the vote is in response to Boeing's site selection process.

"The reason it's being presented now is because Boeing has said it will make the decision on the 777 in early January," Larkin said.

Dec. 12 Offer

The offer Boeing made on Dec. 12 adds an extra $5,000 bonus that workers would get in 2020 and preserves the current rate at which workers move up the pay scale. Under the earlier contract that members rejected, it would have taken many more years for workers to reach the top wage level.

But, perhaps most controversially, the offer freezes the pension in 2016 and moves workers to a 401(k)-type retirement plan.

And District Lodge 751 spokesman Bryan Corliss said in an earlier interview that it also leaves in place the same starting wages that existed in the 2008 contract with no adjustment to reflect inflation. That means if machinists pass this contract offer, they'd lock in those starting wages until 2024 when it expires.

Paul Fritzler, a mechanic on the 767, organized Wednesday's rally and had launched a Facebook page with his wife and daughter called Give Us a Voice. He says he's "extremely happy" that members will now get a chance to vote. He predicts it will pass.

"I think there's enough people who have had a chance to think it over and have switched their vote," Fritzler said.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the offer is still the same as what was put forward by the company on Dec. 12th.

"The terms of Boeing's enhanced contract offer to the IAM on Dec. 12 stand," he wrote in an email. "If ratified by the membership, Boeing would honor that contract."