Contractors at JBLM vote to join Machinists Union
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD — More than 350 workers who repair military helicopters and do site maintenance at Joint Base Lewis-McChord have voted to join the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers.
The new Machinists Union members work for defense contractor URS Federal Services Corp. Some 71 percent of them voted in favor of joining Machinists Union District Lodge 751 in an election held Dec. 8.
It was the second time around for the URS workers, who had contacted District 751 organizers before, when they worked for defense contractor Lear Siegler at JBLM.
That first effort in 2009 failed to gain enough support to justify taking it to a National Labor Relations Board vote. But this time around, the URS workers were more receptive to voting “union yes.”
District 751’s success in negotiating labor agreements with defense contractors made the difference, said Gary Allen, the general vice president for the IAM&AW’s Western Territories. “The URS workers saw the district’s success in achieving quality first contracts for these units, and they wanted the same.”
There wasn’t much debate on it, said John Davis, who is a backshop lead for the group. “Everybody had heard what they needed to hear.”
For many workers, paid time off was a big issue, Davis said.
“A bunch of people got fed up with having their vacation rearranged,” he said. “I’d like to have some sick time back.”
Pay and benefits were also an issue, Davis said.
“I’d like to see a pay raise,” he said. “I’ve been there 13 years and haven’t seen a pay raise or cost of living increase in four. That’d be kind of nice.”
A year ago, more than 220 URS employees working at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station also voted to join District 751. They ratified their first contract in July, and began seeing the first fruits of their new contract this fall, when they started collecting the increased wages they’d negotiated for. They also began to accrue sick leave, which they didn’t have before.
After seeing what the union could do for their co-workers, the URS workers at JBLM were eager to listen, said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski.“We have a lot of highly skilled members who do work that’s essential for America’s defense,” said Wroblewski. “They deserve to be paid fairly and treated fairly, and a Machinists Union contract can give them both.”
The new Machinists still have a lot of hard work to do before they get their first union contract, said District 751 Organizing Director Jesse Cote, who led the URS campaign.
“This doesn’t get done without plenty of involvement from the folks on the shop floor,” he said. “Participation is the key to a successful deal.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at the Boeing Co., District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents nearly 31,000 working men and women at 45 employers across Washington, Oregon and California. This month, District 751 members used collective bargaining to reach an agreement that ensures Boeing’s new 737 MAX will be built in Puget Sound.
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