Kent aerospace workers join Machinists Union
The workers voted in favor of the union by a better than 2-to-1 margin on Aug. 11. The National Labor Relations Board certified the results on Aug. 19.
The Hytek workers specialize in doing various types of metal finishing and coating for aerospace manufacturers, including Boeing, Lockheed and Bell Helicopters.
The election capped off a four-month unionizing effort by Machinists Union District Lodge 751. Employees at Hytek had approached District 751 in May.
“The health plan and fairness in the workplace” were the top issues, said Jay Lang, a 22-year Hytek employee who does nickel plating and titanium etching.
Hytek has a process for moving up the pay grades, but “a lot of people have an issue with how do you get to the next step,” he said. “How do you get up the pay scale?”
But “the health care is probably the biggest issue,” Lang said. “We have a high-deductible health care plan.”
Hytek is a subsidiary of Bellevue-based Esterline Corp., and the management team hired anti-union professionals in an effort to block the unionization effort.
“They hired union busters and pretty much got all of management involved,” Lang said. “They were having captive audience meetings.”
In the last days before the election, managers spread a number of false rumors, including one that key customers had threatened to pull work from the company if the workers voted to join the Machinists Union, said Jesse Cote, a member of the union’s Seattle-based staff. “It was a ruthless, half-truth anti-union campaign.”
The fact that so many people voted in favor of joining the union in the face of those threats speaks volumes about the character and integrity of the workers at Hytek, said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists District 751.
Esterline, he noted, turned a profit of $46 million in its most-recent quarter, which was a 58-percent increase over the same quarter the year before. In June, Esterline executives bragged to investors about their prospects for future growth, and raised their profit projections.
“Given all that, we feel management can afford to share some of those gains with the workers at Hytek whose hard work helped create those profits,” said Wroblewski.
The next step for the new Machinists at Hytek will be to negotiate a new contract. The union has filed information requests with the company, asking for dates that talks could begin.
Lang said he’s optimistic. “I hope management doesn’t see this as a threat, and that we can move on with our normal day-to-day business and we can get a good contract, a fair contract.”
The Hytek employees – like all other American workers – have a legally protected right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining, Wroblewski said. “We’re proud to have the Hytek workers as part of our union, and we will support them in every way we can.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents some 28,500 working men and women at 45 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. In 2010, District 751 members used collective bargaining to reach contracts with 22 of those employers, without a single work day lost to strikes.
To contact a District 751 officer for information on how a union contract could help you, click here.