Union: Teamwork delivers a tanker triumph

District 751 Machinists say that a winning bid from Boeing to provide aerial refueling tankers to the U.S. Air Force will allow them to start planning for their futures.

“I can plan for retirement,” said Mike Carp, a 767 assembly worker in Everett. “I can plan for my kids going to school. I can be comfortable in paying the mortgage on my home.”

Boeing appears to have landed the long-contentsted contract to supply 179 KC-46A tankers to Air Force, but the Machinists Union is not letting up, said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751.

“With the tanker, it ain’t over ’til it’s over, and even then you can’t be sure,” said Wroblewksi. “We … are going to keep fighting this tanker battle.”

Wroblewski’s comments are printed in the current issue of the AeroMechanic newsletter, which is now available online.

Machinists celebrated alongside Boeing executives and Washington’s elected leaders when the Pentagon announced on Feb. 24 it had picked Boeing’s tanker bid over a bid from European rival EADS. On Feb. 25, thousands of Machinists gathered in the newly reconfigured 767 assembly area to celebrate the win.

There is no better example of what Boeing can achieve when it works together with its union Machinists, Wroblewski told the crowd. It’s “an incredible partnership,” he said. “We have worked hand-in-hand on this issue — on the political front, on the shop floor — and together we made this happen.”

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney agreed. “The IAM was a big deal in this thing, a big deal,” he said. “We’ve got to keep coming together like this.”

McNerney went on to say that Boeing tanker win “makes this country greater, makes our company stronger and gives us all the jobs we deserve and earned.”

For shop-floor Machinists, it means a more-secure future for them and their families. “It’s the promise of work for the indefinite future,” said Nathan Melnyk.

Cory Ward agreed. “Buying a house is more feasible,” he said. “College is an option for my son.”

But it’s also important for America, said Machinist Scott Galley. “For the nation to recover from this recession, to have all these jobs supported is a huge deal,” he said. “To have an American-made product — it’s huge.”

EADS still has until March 9 to decide whether it will appeal the bid award, although Pentagon officials say they’re confident that the process they used to pick the Boeing plane will withstand any challenge.

Until there’s word on what EADS will do, Wroblewski says Machinists will keep making their arguments in support of the Boeing tanker bid:

  • The EADS plane is too big and too costly to operate;
  • The EADS plan to fabricate parts in Europe to be assembled in Alabama is too risky; and
  • Above all, “we don’t need to be exporting our jobs or our tax dollars anywhere,” he said.

Barring a challenge, Boeing is expected to start building the first KC-46A tankers in 2015, with the first 18 planes to be delivered by 2017.

Also in this month’s AeroMechanic, you’ll find:

  • A report on an arbitration case won by District 751 that resulted in an employee of one of the Hanford contractors being reinstated to his job in January after being unjustly terminated in 2009. The arbitrator converted his firing to a two-week suspension, and ordered his employer to pay all lost wages and benefits for more than a year.
  • Updates on work being done by new Machinists Union members working for defense contractor URS at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station to secure their first union contract, and the issues facing Machinists Union members working at the Roosevelt Regional Landfill as they prepare to negotiate a new contract with Allied Waste this fall;
  • A story describing how Machinists on the 777 line in Everett are working with Boeing managers to improve training for newly hired factory workers;
  • Reports on recent graduates from the IAM/Boeing Joint Apprenticeship Program; and
  • A story about a lecture given by Ed Greenberg, the lead author of the book “Turbulence: Boeing and the State of American Workers and Managers,” which outlines the problems caused by changes at Boeing following the 1997 merger with McDonell-Douglas.

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, Machinists District 751 now represents more than 26,000 working men and women at 44 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2010, District 751 members ratified new contracts with 22 of those employers, without a single workday lost to strikes.

To contact a District 751 officer for information on how a union contract could help you, click here.

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