Wroblewski: Chicago must earn future work

Machinists Union members on the 787 line have gone above and beyond to find and correct problems on the oft-delayed Dreamliner, and Machinists in Renton are delivering 737s at all-time record rates.

Given that, it’s hard to fathom why Boeing CEO Jim McNerney continues to publicly question the skills of his Puget Sound workforce and threaten to move future work somewhere else, said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski.

“To that I’ve got one thing to say: It’s time for Boeing management in Chicago to start pulling its weight and start proving that it adds value to our enterprise,” Wroblewski wrote in his monthly column in the AeroMechanic newsletter.

In a front-page story in the August AeroMechanic, which is now available online, Machinists Union members in Everett described how they discovered some of the latest problems with the 787’s horizontal stabilizer, and worked with union engineers belonging to SPEEA to design and fabricate the shims need to fix the problem. The union workers then trained the workers brought in by the supplier to fix the problem — even down to showing them which tools to use.

“Basically, it was an all-IAM effort for re-shimming that included our AOG (aircraft-on-ground) and flightline mechanics as well,” said Scott Maddalena, the quality assurance inspector credited with finding the problem.

According to the plans dreamed up by Boeing executives in Chicago, experienced inspectors like Maddalena weren’t even supposed to be closely examining the 787 components as they arrived in Everett, said District 751 Business Rep Brett Coty.

“The 787 program was designed to have quality inspections done at the supplier level,” Coty said. “Our members are supposed to be confied to simple visual assessment on the 787 — looking for obvious defects, FOD (foreign object debris) or damage in shipping. We are not supposed to scrutinize the suppliers’ build processes.”

But the skilled District 751 Machinists are still spotting problems, which allows them to be corrected before they snowball in significance, Coty said. “Our members have lots of experience, know what to kook for and have been able to detect and correctthese problems before they are delivered to the customer.”

If that doesn’t prove the worth of Machinists, then perhaps the fact that Boeing is delivering more than a plane a day off its 737 line in Renton does, wrote Wroblewski. Following the Farnborough air show, in fact, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Jim Albaugh hinted that the company would like to up 737 production from the current 31.5 planes a month to as high as 40.

But instead of praising the Puget Sound workforce that has achieved all that, Boeing’s CEO — in what Wroblewski called “true Chicago style” — leveled a clear threat against them, telling The Seattle Times that workers in Renton and Everett will have to compete to “earn” future work.

Looking that all Boeing workers here have acheived, Wroblewski said, “the question for Mr. McNerney is this: How do these kinds of dramatic successes not prove the value of the Puget Sound workforce to you and your Chicago crew?”

In contrast, Boeing’s Chicago management team has a pretty poor record, Wroblewski pointed out, with its main “accomplishments” being:

  • Adopting an overly outsourced business plan for the 787 that has resulted in nearly three years and more than $5 billion in delays and overruns;
  • Deciding to open a second 787 plant in South Carolina, that is distracting from efforts to focus on fixing the 787, while also draining billions more in shareholder dollars; and
  • Continually threatening the company’s top performing employees, the Puget Sound workforce that goes above and beyond to deliver for Boeing.

It’s frustrating, said Scott Fleenor, a veteran Machinist working on the 787. “We all came to work at Boeing to build airplanes, no matter who put the subassemblies together,” he said. “It is frustrating that on this plane we still cannot do that and are continually fixing isues from suppliers rather than delivering airplanes.”

Also in the August AeroMechanic, you can read:

  • Comments from the Boeing vice president in charge of tanker development, who spoke at a rally Machinists held in support of the company’s bid for the U.S. Air Force refueling tanker and said the key to a Boeing win will be “our great Machinists here in Everett, our great Machinists in Kansas, and all our engineering specialists throughout the company.”
  • A report on how the White House has honored District 751 as an organization — and four of its members individually — for outstanding community service in 2009.
  • Reports on several recent District 751 fundraisers that generated more than $22,000 for Guide Dogs of America.
  • Reports on the upcoming talks between the union and management at Pexco, an aerospace and auto industry supplier in Union Gap, and on the recently ratified contract with Central Pre-Mix.
  • A profile on retiree Edmond Laville, a World War II veteran who spent 26 years at Boeing after the war; his profile is part of the celebration of District 751’s 75th anniversary this year.

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 and California.

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