Union: Health care hikes undermine CEO’s pledge

Recent comments by the Boeing Co.’s CEO are a positive sign that better relations could be ahead between the company and its largest union, the Aerospace Machinists Union’s district president in Seattle said.

But the company’s actions — specifically its decision to sharply increase employee health care costs — are a step in the wrong direction, he said.

“So long as Boeing is turning profits of more than $3 billion a year, I don’t see any reason for any wage or benefit cuts,” Machinists District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski told union members. “Instead, Boeing should partner with us to find ways we can make our already-skilled Machinists even more productive — and then find ways to reward you for the amazing work you do to make Boeing the global aerospace leader.”

Wroblewski’s comments were part of his monthly letter to members that is published in the AeroMechanic newsletter, which is now available online.

In his message, the union president recounted Boeing CEO Jim McNerney’s October speech to the International Metalworkers Federation in Seattle. Wroblewski said he was pleasantly surprised by much of what McNerney had to say, particularly his admission that Boeing had “gone too far” in its decision to outsource most of the 787, and as a result, Boeing had “lost control” of the aircraft, “both at the supply chain and engineering level.”

“That’s not news to any of you in Everett,” Wroblewski wrote. “But it was significant to hear McNerney say that in a room full of aerospace union representatives, the very people whose jobs have become poker chips in Boeing’s international outsourcing game.”

Wroblewski also wrote that McNerney “seemed thoughtful” in discussing the relationship between Boeing’s Chicago management team and its Puget Sound labor unions, particularly in regards to the Machinists strike in 2008, saying: “Last time around there were some honest differences of opinion, but we also didn’t interact effectively.”

McNerney called for a “long-term relationship” between Chicago and the unions, and pledged to “work very hard to do that.”

That’s all encouraging, Wroblewski said. But what McNerney says isn’t nearly as important as what he and his Chicago managers do, he said. And with last month’s threats of steep health-care cost increases for union workers in 2012, “they certainly aren’t off to a good start.”

Also in this month’s AeroMechanic, you can read:

  • Reports on the union’s community service efforts in October, which included collecting nearly a half-ton of candy for a Salvation Army Halloween party, serving breakfasts to the homeless at missions in Everett and Tacoma and taking part in the Making Strides for Breast Cancer walk in Bellevue;
  • A story on how a Machinist working at Boeing got four weeks of vacation time she was entitled to, thanks to the help of her union steward;
  • A story about a report that shows how Reagan-era anti-union and free-trade policies have led to a massive redistribution of wealth in America, which is undermining the nation’s future by creating a society where the top 74 wage-earners in America now earn as much as the 19 million working people at the bottom of the pay scale;
  • Reports on District Lodge 751’s involvement in the recently concluded political campaigns, including the union’s strong support for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray; and
  • Reports on new contracts ratified by District 751 members who work for Penske Trucking and Kenworth Sales in Spokane.

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District 751 now represents more than 25,000 working men and women at 42 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.

Become a fan of IAM 751 on Facebook.

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