Spokane Machinists vote to strike against Triumph
SPOKANE – Some 400 Machinists Union members have voted to authorize a strike against Triumph Composite Systems starting at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
On Monday, 94 percent of union members voted to reject the company’s three-year contract offer, and 93 percent also voted to authorize a strike.
The potential strike would be in large part a protest over the company’s failure to bargain fairly, which played a huge role in keeping the union from being able to negotiate a contract acceptable to its members, said Jon Holden, the president of Machinists Union District Lodge 751.
“Our members wanted us to negotiate a contract that restored pensions to all hourly workers at Triumph and eliminated the two-tier wage scheme that pays some workers thousands of dollars a year less than others who do the same work,” Holden said. “Triumph’s bad-faith bargaining kept us from getting that agreement.”
The union has filed Unfair Labor Practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, alleging the company engaged in threats, coercion and direct dealing, and stopped bargaining prematurely. The company also has refused to hand over information that the union has a right to see, under federal law, to help it bargain fairly.
One of the items Triumph refuses to disclose, Holden said, is that amount of tax dollars it is receiving from Washington residents under the state’s $8.7 billion aerospace industry tax incentive program.
Since Triumph started taking the tax breaks, it has moved work that used to be done in Spokane to Mexico, Holden said.
“We don’t think it’s fair for Triumph to expect the Spokane community to support their corporation with tax dollars, only to have them take some residents’ jobs away while cutting overall pay and benefits for those who are still working,” he said.
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, which are used on Boeing 737, 747, 777 and 787 airliners, Airbus A350s and Gulfstream G650 business jets.
The aerospace industry is in the midst of a nearly unprecedented boom, with orders backlogs stretching out for seven or eight years, Holden said.
“Our members see the backlog in orders that Triumph has and they know we shouldn’t be going backwards,” he said. “These are highly skilled, very-efficient workers who put out a lot of products and earn a lot of money for Triumph.
“What we’re asking for are reasonable things,” Holden concluded. “Our members have earned better and Triumph can afford to do better.”
This is the second time Machinists Union members have been on strike against Triumph since the company bought the Spokane plant from the Boeing Co. in 2003. In 2007, union workers staged a three-day walkout after rejecting a contract offer.
Originally formed in 1935 by hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents some 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 Machinists Union Local Lodge 86 in Spokane, Machinists Union Local Lodge 1123 in Coulee City and Machinists Union Local Lodge 1951 in Pasco.