Contractors at NAS Whidbey vote to join union
The workers are employed by defense contractor URS to perform maintenance on U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowlers and EA-18G Growler electronic warfare jets. Some 82 percent of them voted to join Machinists Union District Lodge 751 in an election held Dec. 27.
The election was certified by the National Labor Relations Board on Jan. 3. The union is now moving to negotiate a first contract on behalf of the newly organized workers.
The vote capped a year-long effort to form a union for the workers, who first contacted the Machinists in early 2010. The workers sought a union to help them bring their pay in line with what other workers in Western Washington are paid for doing similar work, said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski.
The URS workers also wanted a written agreement to cover work they do when assigned to remote locations – so-called TDY assignments – and also a more-fair process for filling job openings, promotions and downgrades, he said.
District Lodge 751 has a track record of negotiating better wages and benefits for civilian employees at military bases across Washington under the Service Contract Act, the federal law that governs union contracts for defense contractors. That made an impression on the URS employees, Wroblewski said.
In December, for example, Machinists Union members working as flight line mechanics for L-3 Communications at Joint Base Lewis-McChord ratified a four-year contract that granted them raises of $2.10 an hour in the first year of the deal. And in April, Machinists working as pilot instructors and flight simulator technicians for FlightSafety Services at Fairchild Air Force Base unanimously approved a three-year contract that increased their wages a minimum of 6.7 percent in the first year.
“We have a lot of highly skilled members who do work that’s essential for America’s defense,” said Wroblewski. “They deserve to be paid fairly, and to be treated fairly when it comes to promotions and temporary duty assignments. A Machinists Union contract can give them both.”
Wroblewski praised the District 751 staffers and volunteers who worked on the unionizing campaign, but said “the real heroes are our new members working for URS. The teamwork they showed on this effort shows me they can work together both to benefit themselves, and to maintain America’s might.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., Seattle-based Machinists District Lodge 751 now represents more than 26,000 working men and women at 44 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2010, it negotiated 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.