Holden: Union’s committed to raising living standards

Machinists Union District Lodge 751 is committed to raising the standard of living of all aerospace workers, whether they are part of the union or not.

SeattleTownhallH“One way to do that is through unionization — helping other workers organize unions to negotiate for their own better wages and benefits,” District 751 President Jon Holden said. “Another way to raise the standard of living is through legislation that raises minimum wages.”

Holden’s comments are included in this month’s AeroMechanic newsletter, which is now available online.

Holden hailed the Seattle City Council‘s recent move to approve a phased-in $15 minimum wage ordinance. The new law is “far from perfect,” he said, but it’s a “big step in the right direction.”

Some District 751 members could be helped by the new wage law, Holden said. The starting pay in four of Boeing’s 12 labor grades is below $15 an hour, and it’s possible some union members who work in Seattle will qualify for pay increases under the new rules.

But aside from the potential direct benefit to individual Machinists, there are three major reasons why District 751 supports higher minimum wages, Holden said.

For starters, a higher minimum wage “creates more leverage for workers in the marketplace,” he said. “If Boeing and its suppliers have to compete with Starbucks, McDonalds and Zumiez for entry-level workers, then Boeing and its suppliers will have to improve their pay and benefits.”

Secondly, Holden said, it helps the union at the bargaining table. “Companies like Boeing will always try to force our wages down to the lowest possible level,” he said. “If we bring that lowest possible level up, that reduces some of the downward pressure.”

But most of all, he said, raising the minimum wage is “simply the right thing to do.”

PiercePeanutButterHolden noted that unions across Western Washington collected more than 5.5 tons of peanut butter this spring, which was donated to food banks in Pierce, Snohomish, Skagit and Whatcom counties. “The sad truth is that most of the kids who will rely on the food banks for peanut butter are the children of working people, people with skills who work full-time yet still don’t bring home enough to feed their families, let alone pay for a car to drive to work or new clothes for their kids to wear to school,” he wrote.

While low-wage fast food workers have gotten most of the attention so far, Holden noted that there are “people building airplane parts in non-union shops getting paid $10 or $12 an hour. Helping them live better lives — either through organizing their own union or through laws that raise their wages — is the right thing to do for them, and for us.”

Also in this month’s AeroMechanic, you’ll read:

  • A report on how the Washington State Labor Council is backing the Washington Machinists Council‘s decision to withdraw support for Congressman Rick Larsen, and has also pledged support for an effort by IAM 751 and SPEEA to hold aerospace manufacturers accountable for creating quality jobs with the $8.7 billion tax break they received from the Washington Legislature in November. “We don’t believe Washington citizens are interested in subsidizing $10-an-hour jobs,” said IAM 751 Legislative Director Larry Brown. “And we know our citizens don’t want to see companies using our tax dollars to create jobs in other states;”
  • An update on IAM 751’s support for efforts to extend the Export-Import Bank, which helps Boeing sell airplanes and supports good-paying aerospace industry jobs nationwide;
  • A recap of union Town Hall meetings held in Renton and Seattle during the first week of June;
  • A feature on a new oral history project by the union’s Labor History Committee, which has posted videos of interviews with retired IAM 751 officers and activists;
  • A recap of the Machinist Volunteer Program‘s annual awards banquet, where volunteers were honored for providing nearly 16,000 hours of volunteer service during 557 community events in 2013; and
  • A report about Machinists Union Local Lodge 751-C‘s second annual Sporting Clays Shoot, which raised $16,200 for Guide Dogs of America.

Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 32,000 working men and women at 50 employers across Washington, Oregon and California.

To talk to an IAM 751 officer about how to join the Machinists Union, click here.

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