Aerospace Machinists join Fight for $15 in Seattle

SEATTLE  — Machinists Union District Lodge 751 is formally joining the Fight for $15 in Seattle.

AIMsigns (2)The union’s District Council voted unanimously March 11 to endorse Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s proposal to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15.

The motivation is simple, said Larry Brown, the union’s Legislative Director. “Clearly, we all do better when we all do better.”

The District Council is the 35-member governing body for the union, made up of union members who work for Boeing and other companies. The union has more than 32,000 members across Washington state.

The Fight for $15 to date has focused mostly on low-wage workers in the food service industry.  But Brown said there are workers struggling with inadequate paychecks in almost every industry sector here in Puget Sound, including aerospace manufacturing.

For example, District 751 is currently locked in contract talks for more than 275 workers at AIM Aerospace in Sumner. The average pay there is $13 an hour, but most workers – including nearly everyone in the largest job classification – are paid less than that.

The result is devastating to the workers and their families. Miguel Moldanado is a leader on a team that makes air ducts for Boeing and Airbus jets. He says that if he gets 10 hours of overtime each week – and he gets to his local food bank – then he and his family will have enough to eat and pay rent.

“But if I’m not getting overtime, I won’t make it,” he said.

AIMRally2Christie O’Farrell, who works in shipping and receiving at AIM, said many of her coworkers rely on welfare and charity to meet their basic needs.

“There are people who work here, single parents, who are on state assistance and get (taxpayer-subsidized) Section 8 housing,” she said. “Half the people here use the food bank.”

AIM Aerospace is one of Washington’s 100 largest privately owned companies with revenues of more than $80 million a year, noted Brett Coty, the District 751 business representative who is the union’s lead negotiator for the AIM talks.

“We as a community are indirectly subsidizing companies like AIM, by providing taxpayer-funded assistance that allows their workers to survive on the poverty wages these companies pay,” Coty said. “Employers like AIM CEO Jeff Feutz don’t seem to mind that their employees qualify for food stamps and Medicaid, but we’re not OK with that.”

Brown also noted that while the average Machinists Union member at Boeing earns $29 an hour today, entry-level pay in the bottom four labor grades is below $15 an hour. The people in those jobs must work for years at the company before their pay hits the $15 mark.

“There are far too many people, working at profitable businesses in our communities, who are paid poverty wages,” Brown said.

“To build our economy, and a future for our kids, we need to do something about that,” he said. “The Fight for $15 in Seattle is one of the things that we can do, today, to help people in our communities. That’s why we’re supporting this.”

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 32,000 working men and women at 49 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.

Follow IAM 751 on Twitter.

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