Machinists cheer 767 milestone, look to tankers

The completion and delivery of the 1,000th Boeing 767 is a major milestone in the history of aerospace, officers of Machinists Union District Lodge 751 said.

“It’s huge,” said Local 751-A President Jason Redrup, who started his career at Boeing as a 767 structures mechanic. “There’s not a lot of airplane programs that can say ‘We built a thousand.'”

The expertise gained by the Machinists who built those 1,000 jets is a key reason why the Pentagon should pick Boeing’s KC-767 aerial refueling tanker for the U.S. Air Force, District 751 President Tom Wroblewski said.

“We’ve helped Boeing develop, build and deliver six different derivatives of the 767, and we’ve come to know that plane as well as a parent knows their child,” he said. “Building a seventh model is a challenge we can handle.”

Wroblewski’s comments are in his monthly message to members published in current edition of the AeroMechanic newsletter, which is now available online.

The newsletter recaps all the arguments the union has made during nearly a decade of support of Boeing’s bid to provide some 179 tankers to the Air Force:

  • The KC-767 is the right-sized plane for the mission, especially when compared to the oversized Airbus alternative;
  • The KC-767 would be cheaper to acquire and operate, especially since the Airbus KC-30 would require billions of dollars of remodeling work to hangers and runways at Air Force bases worldwide;
  • The KC-767 generates more American jobs than the European tanker alternative;
  • The KC-767 would be built and assembled by experienced, highly skilled and dedicated American workers, while the Airbus plane would be assembled by as-yet-unhired workers in Alabama from parts fabricated in Europe.

In addition, District 751 leaders are strongly supporting U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s calls for an investingation into how the mix-up of tanker bid data — which resulted in an analysis of Boeing’s data being sent to Airbus and vice versa — has affected the bidding.

“Thank you, Sen. Cantwell, for standing up and being a voice on this,” said District 751 Administrative Assistant Jim Bearden, who spoke at a Jan. 20 press conference with Cantwell, held next to the 767 line on the floor of Boeing’s Everett factory.

“Not only is this tanker bid crucial to our national security, it is one of the Defense Department’s largest acquistions ever, so it’s crucial we get it right,” Cantwell said.

The Pentagon should also consider the success of the U.S. Navy’s P-8A Poseidon, which is built by District 751 Machinists working for Boeing in Renton, Wroblewski said. The Navy in January placed its initial production order for six more of the converted 737s, and on Feb. 3, the Indian Navy said it will order four more to go with its original order of eight.

“Our members have delivered the P-8A for the Navy and they stand ready to deliver for the Air Force as well,” Wroblewski said. “Our fighting men and women needed this essential piece of equipment yesterday, our nation’s working people need the jobs it would bring today, and our taxpayers desperately need the cash savings it represents for the future. It’s time we end this tanker nonsense and start building Boeing tankers for the Air Force.”

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

  • A report on how District 751 members approved 23 separate contracts with 22 employers in 2010, without a single day lost to strikes. “If you sit down together with a goal of reaching an agreement, you can get an agreement,” Wroblewski said. “But if you treat negotiations like a contest, and go into them with a mind-set that the other side is an enemy that you must defeat, then it gets really hard to reach a deal that’s good for both sides.”
  • A report on the recent vote by civilian workers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island to join District 751; the first round of contract talks between workers at defense contractor URS and their employees at Whidbey are set for March;
  • A story explaining the union’s support in Olympia for a new bill that would give aeropace companies a tax break in return for hiring apprentices;
  • A feature story on how Machinists working for Boeing in Auburn used the training they received through IAM/Boeing Joint Programs to save the life of a co-worker after he collapsed on the job in December; and
  • A round-up of community service work done by Machinists in January, including how members of the Machinists Volunteer Program helped out the family of a recently deceased member.

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. As noted above, in 2010, District 751 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.



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