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Machinists union leader responds to membership’s questions

SEATTLE — The president of the local Machinists union responded to questioning and scrutiny from union members Friday, a day after union officials decided to pass on a contract proposal from Boeing without even bringing the contract to a vote among full membership.

Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinsts Union Distrcit Lodge 751, said on his Facebook page that he received “several hundred” emails from union members overnight asking why the union could not take a vote on the latest contract proposal from Boeing.

Wroblewski said the contract was no longer on the table and could not be up for a vote, as it was rescinded after he and leadership brass declined to support the contract and ask union members to vote “yes.”

“Boeing’s offer was only on the table Thursday so long as I agreed to recommend the offer and urge you to vote yes on it,” Wroblewski said in a letter to union membership posted on his Facebook page Friday. “But I could not recommend you accept this offer. When I said we couldn’t do that, Boeing withdrew the offer immediately.”

Wroblewski said, despite reports of improvements, the offer was “almost identical” to the one rejected by a 2-to-1 margin by union members on Nov. 13. Since that rejection vote, Boeing’s future in Washington state has been very much up in the air, with as many as 22 other states have made a bid for work on the 777X, officials said. Boeing is reviewing more than 50 possible site locations to build and finish the next generation airplane, all of them outside of Washington state.

Everett

Union president Tom Wroblewski

According to Wroblewski, union officials could only identify four changes in the latest contract proposal over the Nov. 13 offer. The changes included $5,000 lump-sum bonus payable in 2020., increased dental coverage in 2020, and agreed to the current system of new hire progression. Other than that, the contract was exactly the same, Wroblewski said.

“I think you’ll agree these were very minor changes, and not nearly enough to offset the things Boeing was trying to take away from you,” Wroblewski said.

It is unclear if Boeing and machinists will continue to negotiate, or, as Boeing said, that contract offer was final.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Below is the full text of Wroblewski’s letter to union members:

Dear Brothers and Sisters

Several hundred of our 30,000 members at Boeing e-mailed me overnight to ask why you can’t vote on the company’s most-recent contract offer. The answer is simple:

There is no offer to vote.

Boeing’s offer was only on the table Thursday so long as I agreed to recommend the offer and urge you to vote yes on it. But I could not recommend you accept this offer. When I said we couldn’t do that, Boeing withdrew the offer immediately.

So there is no offer to vote.

As union leaders, we couldn’t go onto the shop floor to ask you to accept this proposal. Despite what Boeing is saying, the offer was almost identical to the one you rejected by a 2-to-1 margin on Nov. 13.

In the four-page document they passed to us Thursday afternoon, we could only identify four changes from the Nov. 13 offer, and they weren’t significant

  • Boeing sweetened the pot with an additional $5,000 lump-sum bonus – payable in 2020. It is not a $15,000 bonus now, it is still a $10,000 bonus now.
  • Boeing increased annual maximum dental coverage – by $500 per person in 2020, and by another $500 per person in 2024.
  • Boeing promised to extend the Letter of Understanding that guarantees we will keep doing 737 MAX work until 2024 – but passed no contract language on it, leaving us uncertain of how solid that guarantee was.
  • Boeing agreed to back down from its plan to keep new hires in progression for up to 22 years, and to go back to the current system that gets new hires to the maximum rate in six years.Their proposal also called for a “joint evaluation” of the progression system.

Every other item was EXACTLY THE SAME as the offer you rejected Nov. 13.

I think you’ll agree these were very minor changes, and not nearly enough to offset the things Boeing was trying to take away from you, and for the Machinists who will join us in the future:

  • Freezing your pensions, eliminating them for new Machinists and replacing them with a “savings plan” so vague we couldn’t tell you anything about how it would work.
  • Raising everyone’s health care contributions by as much as $4,000 a year over 2011 levels by the end of the contract.
  • Limiting future wage increases to 1 percent every other year, and locking in current starting pay rates until 2024, when thousands of Boeing jobs would be below minimum wage.

Given that you had voted so overwhelmingly against an almost identical proposal on Nov. 13, I didn’t see any point in bringing it to you for a vote, and our Business Reps agreed with me.

So, until Boeing changes its conditions, we don’t have an offer to vote on.

I’m sorry that there has been confusion over this issue, especially by the reported comments of the retired leader from our International headquarters, who seems to be suggesting there’s still an offer hiding out there somewhere, just waiting for you to vote on. I understand that many of you are frustrated, and I don’t blame you.

I simply ask that you work together with me as we continue to make the case that Boeing’s best chance for success – by far – is to build the 777X here in Washington state, utilizing the skills, experience and dedication of the finest aerospace workers in the world: the Machinists of District 751.

In solidarity

Tom W.

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