Machinists at Triumph approve strike sanction vote
SPOKANE — Machinists Union members who work at Triumph Composites in Spokane overwhelmingly say they are ready to strike, if that’s what it takes to win a fair contract from their employer.
The vote does not necessarily mean a strike is coming. However, such a strong show of support typically strengthens the hand of union negotiators during contract talks by showing that union members are united and resolved, union officers said.
“Our goal is to negotiate a fair contract that our members will approve,” said Steve Warren, a business rep for Machinists Union District Lodge 751. “However, sometimes a strike is the only way to get the company to make that fair offer.”
Contract talks will begin in April for more than 450 workers at the plant. Their current three-year contract expires May 10.
Triumph workers say they’re unhappy with their last contract, negotiated in 2013, in which the company imposed steep concessions including a loss of pension benefits for new employees and a two-tier wage system in which some workers are paid as much as 12.5 percent less than others who do the same job.
“Without the pension, this is just a job,” said Triumph worker Duane Babbitt. “Before, it was a career.”
The Triumph workers are specialists in fabricating composite components for aircraft interiors, including floor panels and ducts for environmental control systems. They produce more than 10,000 environmental control system, flight deck and composite interiors assemblies and 9,000 floor panel assemblies each month.
The Boeing Co. opened the plant in 1990, but sold it to Triumph in 2003.
“We must deliver one message: We are sticking together,” Holden said. “You know it is reasonable to have a pension, and it is reasonable to eliminate a two-tier wage system. It is unreasonable to have that division. You know it, I know it and Triumph knows it too.”
Originally formed in 1935 by hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 33,000 working men and women at 53 employers across Washington and California. In eastern Washington, they are served by a network of local lodges that includes Local 86 in Spokane, Local 1123 in Grand Coulee and Local 1951 in Richland.