Work with unions to benefit company, community
SEATTLE — Machinists Union District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski issued this statement, which was published March 24 in the Renton Reporter:
“Freelance writer Tish Gregory’s recent Renton Reporter column was right about one thing: next year’s contract talks between Boeing, the Machinists Union and SPEEA will be important.
“But she’s got two things dead wrong, and I’d like to set the record straight.
“For starters, Gregory seems to think that Boeing is choking under heavy labor costs. But the truth is – by Boeing’s own calculations – that labor accounts for less than 5 percent of the cost of each airplane.
“This means every single Boeing employee could take a 20-percent cut in pay and benefits and it would lower Boeing’s production costs by less than 1 percent.
“Let’s say that again: If you took every single Boeing employee – from CEO Jim McNerney, who took home $19.7 million last year, to the newest Grade One mechanic earning $12 an hour – and forced them to take 20-percent pay cut, that would add less than 1 percent to Boeing’s bottom line.
“So instead of fighting with the unions in 2012 over 1 percent of costs, it’s my belief Boeing management should do what it did with the tanker bid: work with our unions to make production more efficient. Working together, we chopped between 20 and 30 percent off Boeing’s costs to build 767s in Everett. That’s how Boeing captured the tanker contract.
“So what should Boeing do? Fight our unions to save 1 percent, or work with us to save more? It’s clear which approach makes the most sense, and I am confident we can get there, building on the success of our shared tanker win.
“But there’s a second problem with Gregory’s analysis: She implies that it will be necessary for union workers to give concessions to a company that turned a $3.3 billion profit last year.
“The truth is every Renton business owner – shoot, every Washington state taxpayer – should be rooting for the unions to hold the line against attempts to strip away pay or benefits. Because every hundred dollars taken out of Boeing workers’ pockets to give to shareholders in Chicago is $100 that won’t get spent at PJ’s Pet Ranch, or Torero’s restaurants, or Renton Transmission – or any other local business.
“And if that money doesn’t get spent in Renton, it also wouldn’t be taxed to support Renton schools, roads and firefighters, provide health care to our state’s poor children – or even to hire university professors and technical college instructors to train the next generation of Boeing workers.
“By the same token, benefit cuts for union workers would hurt local health care providers like Valley Medical Center. And without a secure union pension, former Boeing workers couldn’t afford senior living centers like Merrill Gardens at Renton Centre.
“All these things – thriving local businesses, access to health care, and strong public schools and services – are what make cities like Renton great, and all of them would be diminished without union paychecks and benefits. So rather than question whether society can still afford union brother-and-sisterhood, Tish Gregory should be asking how we as a community would keep small businesses alive and provide for basic public services if the unions go away.
“It’s my job, as the Machinists Union’s district president, to make sure that Boeing workers are bringing home good union paychecks to Renton for generations to come. I also want to ensure that Boeing and its suppliers are world leaders in aerospace – and that Renton and Washington state remain the global center of the industry.
“Working together – labor, management, and the community – we can achieve all that. But it will take all of us working together, and not some of us working against our friends and neighbors as they try to make better lives for themselves, their families and communities.”
Tom Wroblewski is President and Directing Business Representative of Machinists Union District Lodge 751 in Seattle. He formerly worked as union business representative for workers at Boeing’s factory in Renton.
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