Wroblewski says Boeing offer ‘is still a bad deal’
SEATTLE — A Boeing Co. proposal for an eight-year contract extension contains weak assurances that Machinists Union members will build the company’s 777X airplane in Puget Sound, the union’s district president warned.
That “weak promise of job security” — coupled with Boeing’s plans to destroy union retirement benefits, jack up health care costs and limit future wage growth — is why Machinists Union District Lodge 751 recommends that its members reject the proposal, said District 751 President Tom Wroblewski.
“The only guarantees this contract makes are that future Machinists won’t have a defined benefit pension, current Machinists will pay more for health care, and everyone will have sharp limits on their future earnings,” he said.
Members of District 751 in Seattle and IAM District W-24 in Portland will vote on Boeing’s contract proposal on Jan. 3. The vote was ordered by R. Thomas Buffenbarger, the leader of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers, over the objections of Wroblewski and District 751’s elected business representatives.
Complete coverage of the vote — including District 751’s analysis of the latest Boeing offer and how it compares to both the union’s current contract and a proposal members voted down on Nov. 13 — are included in a special edition of the AeroMechanic newsletter, which is now available online. Copies were mailed to the homes of IAM 751 members this week, and an electronic copy was sent Monday to more than 20,000 union members who have their e-mail addresses on file with District 751.
Districts 751 and W-24 are working under a contract that extends until 2016. If the new proposal is ratified by a simple majority, the current IAM contract with Boeing will be extended until 2024. Boeing says it will locate much 777X work in Washington state — subject to provisions that allow it to outsource any 777X work it wants. If the vote is rejected, the company has said it will continue to evaluate sites in other states.
Machinists at Boeing voted by a 2-to-1 margin Nov. 13 to reject a similar offer negotiated largely by representatives of the IAM’s International headquarters from Maryland. In December, Boeing and the union resumed contract discussions, which quickly fell apart when District 751 representatives said they could not comply with Boeing’s demand that they both recommend the latest offer to union members and agree to actively campaign for its adoption.
The December offer is very much like the one that Machinists rejected overwhelmingly in November, said Wroblewski. The only significant change is that Boeing backed off from a November demand that would have changed the amount of time it takes for Machinists to progress from entry-level pay to maximum. Under the current contract, that takes six years; Boeing in November proposed changing it to as long as 22 years. The company has backed off that demand and now proposes keeping the progression period to six years.
Bufffenbarger, in a recent letter to union members, suggested that that one change — plus Boeing’s promise to add a few hundred dollars in dental benefits and a larger signing bonus — was enough to warrant a new vote on Jan. 3.
Wroblewski — with the unanimous support of his staff — disagreed. Most of the worst aspects of the Nov. 13 offer remain in place with the new one, he said, including:
No clear statement of work on 777X, and language that clearly gives Boeing the ability to outsource 777X work packages “in whole or in part” for any number of reasons;
Destruction of Machinists’ retirement security, with proposals that would decrease Boeing contributions to its workers retirement plans by two-thirds if they’re at maximum pay in their labor grade – and more if they’re still in progression;
Sharp increases in health care costs, including 10 percent annual increases in monthly insurance premiums, plus deductibles and co-pays that double;
Guaranteed wage increases that average 0.5 percent a year over the life of the proposal – which works out to less than 15 cents an hour for the average District 751 member.
“On top of all that,” Wroblewski added, “Boeing executives tell us they don’t plan to use any of our current wing-line mechanics to build 777X wings, plus they want flexibility to cut our health care benefits in the future – without negotiations.”
All this is coming at a time, Wroblewski said, when Boeing is enjoying record profit margins and stock prices, and a near-record backlog of orders. The company’s board of directors in Chicago in December rewarded shareholders with a $10 billion share buyback plan, and also raised stock dividends 50 percent.
“Instead of rewarding you for the success you’ve made possible,” he told union members, “that same senior management team is punishing you.”
Also in this AeroMechanic special edition, you’ll find:
A op-ed piece by Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson, who declares the Boeing offer is a “slap in the face to union workers who are absolutely driving Boeing profits into uncharted territory;”
A detailed look at all the reasons why Washington is by far the best choice for Boeing to site the 777X;
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the IAM&AW now represents nearly 33,000 working men and women, including some 30,000 at Boeing.