Renton Machinist is champion crane operator

RENTON – A Machinists Union member who works for Boeing in Renton has been named the world’s champion overhead crane operator.

Tony Ullakko, who works second shift at Boeing’s Renton factory, won the honor during the North American Crane Bureau’s Professional Development Competition in Las Vegas earlier this winter.

Crane operators representing more than 50 industries took part in the contest. Each competitor had to pilot an overhead crane simulator to move loads to specific targets laid out on a course. There were three rounds of competition, and each round was timed, forcing the competitors to be both efficient and accurate.

“If you didn’t have 100-percent accuracy, your time didn’t matter because you would be eliminated,” Ullakko said.

Machinists who work at Boeing swept the first three spots in the contest. Ullakko edged fellow Renton crane operator Bruce Weston in the final round to win the contest. Everett crane operator Don Hulse took third. All three are members of Machinists Union District Lodge 751, which represents hourly workers at Boeing and 43 other employers in Washington, Oregon and California.

Few workers in the world have as much riding on them as overhead crane operators at Boeing, said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski. “Each piece they move is worth millions of dollars and they must be precisely put into place for production, without injuring the hundreds of people who are beneath the wings, fuselages and body sections as they’re being moved.”

“It was a great experience,” Ullakko said. “I was proud to represent second shift Renton cranes and happy to bring the championship home to Renton.”

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, Machinists District Lodge 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.

Become a fan of IAM 751 on Facebook.


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