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Anguished Machinists narrowly vote to accept Boeing’s most recent offer on 777X work

Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have voted by a narrow margin to accept the terms of The Boeing Company’s most recent contract extension officer, IAM leaders announced tonight in Everett.

By a vote of 51% to 49%, the union agreed to Boeing’s terms, with many members telling reporters and writing on social media sites that they had reluctantly voted yes. Others voted no for a second time, arguing that Boeing hadn’t really improved its offer since its earlier proposal to land the 777X work was rejected by a two-to-one margin. The leadership of Lodge 751 did not feel the revised offer merited consideration, but they were overruled by the leadership at the international level, and a vote on the revised offer was scheduled for today.

“Our members have spoken and this is the course we’ll take,” said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751. “All along we knew that our members wanted to build the 777X, and that it was in Boeing’s best interest to have them do it.. We recommended that our members reject the offer because we felt that the cost was too high, in terms of our lost pensions and the thousands of dollars in additional health care costs we’ll have to pay each year.

“Now, it’s up to all of us now to pull together to make this airplane program successful. I’m confident we will do that, because as we’ve said all along, this is the most-skilled aerospace workforce in the world.”

Wroblewski reiterated that point in an email to members.

Tonight our members voted to accept Boeing’s proposal of an eight-year contract with an 51% yes vote. Our members have spoken and this is the course we will take.

No member liked this vote or the position we were put in by the Company. Nor was it an easy vote for anyone to cast.

We faced tremendous pressure from every source imaginable in deciding how to vote today. Politicians, the media and others who had no right to get into our business, were aligned against us and did their best to influence your vote.

This decision means Boeing will stop seeking alternate sites for its 777X aircraft program. Our goal in the coming years will be to ensure Boeing lives up to its commitments to its workforce and truly keeps jobs in Washington State.

There has been a lot of frustration and tension over the last two months. But now the vote is over, and we must unite for our future. It is up to all of us now to pull together to make this airplane program successful.

“Tonight, Washington state secured its future as the aerospace capital of the world,” said Governor Jay Inslee in a statement. “To make that happen, the International Association of Machinists District 751 took a hard vote that demands the respect of all Washingtonians who will benefit from having Boeing build the 777X here.”

He went on to say:

The Machinists are our friends, our families, neighbors, the best aerospace workers in the world and people who care deeply about their communities well beyond the walls of the Boeing plant. I want to thank each Machinist, no matter how they voted tonight.

With the work the Legislature did in November and tonight’s vote, Washington State has shown it is the only place to build this next generation jetliner. That legislation has important protections for taxpayers and for Machinists and we will make sure the company keeps its commitment and that these jobs remain in Washington State for the life of the airplane.

We have a history of innovation in our state that has gotten us to this point today and will chart our future for decades to come.

Fabrication of the carbon fiber wing gives us a path to the forefront of the next generation of aerospace manufacturing and the start of a new industry for our state.

Tonight, Washington showed the world we can design our future. We look forward to seeing the jetliner of the future take off and help us build a Washington that works for everyone.

We will not be celebrating the outcome of tonight’s vote, unlike some local political leaders who have essentially been acting as taxpayer-paid lobbyists for Boeing. Our brothers and sisters in the Machinists are giving up a lot of hard-won gains, particularly when it comes to deferred pay, in order to secure the 777x work on Boeing’s terms. The anguished decision they made is not something we rejoice in, or condemn. We respect that it was a tough vote either way, and we stand in solidarity with all the members of Lodge 751, regardless of how they voted.

The Machinists were under a tremendous amount of pressure to cave to Boeing… so much so that in the wake of Boeing’s declaration that it was done negotiating, a serious internal rift developed between Lodge 751 and the International leadership, with the International overruling Lodge 751 and ordering a new vote.

It’s worth noting that the Machinists are a democracy and as such, majority rule prevails. Under Tim Eyman’s rules, Boeing’s supposedly “best and final” offer would have been resoundingly rejected tonight. Boeing purports to be a democracy also, but in reality, its board answers to the company’s well-paid executives, and the shareholders do what the board recommends.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner applauded the vote.

“Thanks to this vote by our employees, the future of Boeing in the Puget Sound region has never looked brighter,” Conner said in a statement. “We’re proud to say that together, we’ll build the world’s next great airplane—the 777X and its new wing – right here. This will put our workforce on the cutting edge of composite technology, while sustaining thousands of local jobs for years to come.”

One Comment

  1. Posted January 4th, 2014 at 5:46 PM | Permalink

    Did the governor act in the best interests of the state or did he desert his constituency. It’s a hard question for me to answer. Had McKenna won, it would have been easy show anger toward Olympia.