Machinists saved 787, union president says

The efforts of Machinists Union members who went above-and-beyond what they were required to do are making it possible for Boeing to deliver its first 787s in 2012.

“I firmly believe that without you, there wouldn’t be any 787 deliveries this September – and maybe for years to come,” said Tom Wroblewski, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751.

“I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that Machinists Union members have saved the 787 program – and quite possibly saved the Boeing Co. in the process,” he said.

Wroblewski’s comments are included in this month’s edition of the AeroMechanic newsletter, which is now available online.

The first 787 was delivered to All Nippon Airways on Sept. 26. The event was cause for celebration among the nearly 4,200 Machinists Union members in Puget Sound who have worked on the Dreamliner – despite the fact that the plane was delivered 40 months late and an estimated $32 billion over budget.

Machinists should be proud of the work they did to find and fix all the problems created by Boeing’s reliance on a high-risk global supply chain, Wroblewski said.

“You were the ones who found the problems with the 787, and you were the ones who solved those problems,” he said. “And in the process, you pioneered new techniques for build 21st century carbon fiber aircraft.”

Union stewards who worked on the plane agreed.

“We bent over backward,” said Joel Hetland. “We’d put it together, take it apart; put it back together, take it apart – several times.”

“People have sacrificed a lot,” added fellow steward Brian Butler. “Seven days a week, 12 hours a day.”

But the struggles added to the sense of satisfaction at the end, said Hetland. “As a team, we accomplished something that nobody has ever done before.”

Also in this month’s AeroMechanic you’ll find a summary of Boeing’s Project Gemini documents that were released by the union on Sept. 23.

Those documents – which were acquired under National Labor Relations Board subpoenas – show that Boeing executives in 2009 considered a new factory in Charleston to be their highest-risk option, the one most-likely to fail and one that would hurt profits for years to come even if it succeeded, and yet they chose it anyway in order to retaliate against District 751 members for past strikes and gain leverage over them in future contract talks.

In addition, you can read:

  • A report on how a $20 million federal grant will help boost aerospace job training programs in Washington state, to the benefit of Boeing, its suppliers and the rest of the state’s aerospace industry;
  • A profile of District 751 member Chris Louie, who was honored by the United Way of Snohomish County for his outstanding community service;
  • A story about recent efforts by District 751’s Machinists Volunteer Program, including the construction of a new playground for a Lynnwood elementary school;
  • Notices of the union’s upcoming food drive in support of Northwest Harvest and a Halloween candy drive to support the Salvation Armyof White Center; and
  • A report on the early steps of negotiating a first contract with management at Hytek Finishes; workers there voted in August to join District 751.

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents some 30,000 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.

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