Some Machinists in Puget Sound plan to rally in favor of a Boeing contract vote, a union member said Monday, escalating tensions over the handling of negotiations tied to the new 777X passenger airplane.
Mechanic Paul Fritzler said there is growing fear among workers that Boeing is prepared to send the work — and likely thousands of jobs — to another state as a way to save money.
Many workers want a chance to vote on Boeing’s latest offer, even though union leaders have said the contract is too similar to one rejected last month, Fritzler said. Federal, state and local political leaders also have called for a vote.
Fritzler and his family are organizing a Wednesday rally to show how many machinists also support that opportunity.
“If there’s a big enough show of support, the union will see that there’s more people that want to vote than they think,” he said.
Union leaders have said there is nothing to vote on because Boeing withdrew its offer. Boeing has said the offer was rejected by union leaders, not withdrawn.
Boeing’s latest offer adds an additional $5,000 in bonus pay and backs away from slowing the rate at which employees move up the pay scale.
However, Boeing has stuck with its push to move workers out of a traditional pension and into a 401(k)-style retirement savings plan.
Machinists voted down the first contract offer in November.
On Monday, the president of the Washington State Labor Council criticized Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Rick Larson of Everett for urging the Machinists union to allow a vote on last week’s proposed Boeing contract.
“While Governor Jay Inslee and Congressman Rick Larson are certainly entitled to their opinions about Boeing’s proposal, putting their opinions in a press statement is absolutely disrespectful to the Machinists and to the labor movement. That they expressed their views so publicly and so supportively of the company’s position reveals how little they understand and respect the collective bargaining process and the generations of sacrifice made by machinists to make this company prosperous,” Jeff Johnson, the Labor Council president wrote in a statement posted online.
Should Boeing “choose to locate production of the 777X any place other than Washington state, the responsibility and ultimately the blame for that decision can only be placed with the company’s desire to break the community standards that the Machinists have sacrificed and collectively bargained for over the decades,” Johnson wrote.
David Postman, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee, reacted to the Labor Council criticism, saying in an email that “the governor believes Machinists should have the opportunity to vote. But to be clear, he has not urged a vote yea or nay. He has consistently said that isn’t his role and fully respects each and every IAM member who will make that decision based on the individual circumstances of their family.”
BOARD RAISES QUARTERLY DIVIDEND
Meanwhile, Boeing announced Monday that its board of directors approved a $10 billion increase in its stock buyback program. The aircraft maker will also raise its quarterly dividend payment by about 50 percent.
Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney said the moves reflect its operational performance, increasing cash flow and confidence in the future.The Seattle Times contributed to this report.