IAM 751 pledges support for striking Auburn Machinists
AUBURN — Machinists Union District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski pledged the support of more than 33,000 aerospace Machinists to 63 fellow unionists on strike against an Auburn company.
“We’re here to support you, whatever way we can,” said Wroblewski, as he donated a $1,000 check to the Machinists Union Local Lodge 79 strike fund. “There are more than 30,000 members standing right behind you, and there are 10,000 retirees we’ll mobilize if we have to.”
Wroblewski led a delegation of District 751 officers and activists who joined Machinists on strike against Belshaw Adamatic on their picket lines for a day.
The Belshaw workers fabricate and assemble equipment for retail and commercial bakeries, and specialize in donut fryers and related equipment.
The Machinists — affiliated with Machinists Union District Lodge 160 — have been on strike against the company since March 24. The rally on June 18 came on the 84th day of the strike, and attracted the support of a number of Seattle-area unions.
“I’ve seen Longshoremen,” said District 160 President Dan Morgan. “I’ve seen Steelworkers. I’ve seen others. They’re all here in support of the striking Machinists at Belshaw. We’re here to support our brothers and sisters.”
The strike began as a dispute over economic issues. The striking Belshaw workers rejected a proposed four-year deal that would have raised their pay 1.5 percent a year, which is “not an acceptable wage increase in today’s economy,” Morgan said.
The Machinists also were angered by the way the company’s management responded to a union plan to save the company money on health insurance. The union proposed adopting a health plan that would save Belshaw Adamatic more than $200,000 a year, with the idea that some of that savings would be passed on to workers as pay raises.
Management quickly implemented the union’s proposed health plan, but instead of raises, offered a $1,500 one-time bonus, which amounted to less than half of one year’s savings from the insurance change, Morgan said.
“Their math is not right,” he said. “Their honor is not right.”
The company also refused to include in the contract a union proposal to form a joint labor-management committee to explore ways that work could be done more cheaply in-house, rather than having it outsourced, Morgan said.
All that triggered the strike, but after it began, the focus changed, as management at Belshaw brought in scabs to replace the strikers and demanded the right to be able to keep the scabs on permanently as part of any deal to settle the strike.
Only 12 of the striking Machinists would have had jobs, under a second contract management proposed on May 10, said David Schonians, one of the Belshaw strikers. The Machinists unanimously rejected the proposal, and the strike continued.
“Roger Faw, the CEO, is trying to break the union,” Schonians said. “He’s not going to succeed.”
“You guys are doing the right thing,” he said. “You’re standing up for your middle-class livelihoods. You’re standing up for your future. You’re standing up for your children.
“Whatever it takes, we’re here with you, one day longer,” Wroblewski concluded. “Whatever it takes.”
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 more than 33,000 working men and woman at 49 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.
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