Spokane community backs Machinists on picket lines
SPOKANE — Machinists Union members locked out at Triumph Composite Systems are gaining support from union workers and community advocates from across Washington state and the nation.
On Wednesday, the first day of the lock out, Teamsters Union Joint Council 28 instructed its members to honor the picket lines at the Triumph plant on Flint Road.
“We wish you every success in your endeavors,” Council President Rick Hicks wrote to Machinists in his letter announcing the decision.
The walk out, which centers on the union’s struggle for fair wages and retirement security, started at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. As of Friday, there had been no talks between the company and the union.
Even before Triumph locked out Machinists, the union representing engineers at Triumph, said that none of its members would do work normally assigned to striking Machinists during the lockout.
Assigning members of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace to do work normally done by Machinists would both violate the terms of SPEEA’s contract with the company, as well as SPEEA members’ rights under federal labor law, the union said in a letter to Triumph’s managers.
SPEEA will host a lunch on the picket line for Machinists at Triumph on Wednesday.
And Liz Moore, along with others from Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane, which fights for economic justice, joined the union’s picket line Thursday. The group has pledged its support and is looking for other ways to help.
Steve Warren, the business representative for Machinists Union Local Lodge 86 in Spokane, noted that other union workers had provided informal support to the picketers.
Union teachers, steelworkers, ironworkers, transit workers, food workers, nurses and letter carriers all have stopped by the picket line to lend their support to the 403 locked-out Machinists, he said. Some picked up signs and joined the picket line, others delivered bottled water and food.
“This kind of support from our friends and neighbors here in Spokane means a lot,” Warren said. “This isn’t just our fight, as Machinists. We’re doing this so that the jobs we have here in Spokane are good-paying jobs, with good benefits. We want them to be the kinds of jobs that can support a community, so it’s great to see this kind of community support.”
Meanwhile, in Seattle, members of Machinists Union District Lodge 751 — which represents more than 30,000 aerospace machinists statewide — are stepping up their support.
On Wednesday, members of Machinists Union Local Lodge 751-F voted to send $1,000 to support their brothers and sisters in Spokane, and lodge officers called for volunteers to help on the picket lines. Members of Machinists Union Local Lodge 751-C followed up with a $1,000 donation of their own on Thursday.
“I think it’s time for a road trip to Spokane,” Local 751-F Vice President Terri Myette told members of her local lodge.
Local 751-C and Local 751-F each represent about 6,000 aerospace workers at the Boeing Co. and aerospace parts manufacturers around Puget Sound.
The Spokane lock-out also is attracting attention from other unions nationally.
From Indiana, officers with United Auto Workers Local 9 have sent words of support. They work for Honeywell International Inc. – building wheels and brakes for jets built by Boeing and other companies — and were locked out by their employer after they rejected a contract that would have included massive increases in health care costs.
“Makes me proud to see the working class stand up for their rights and skills,” wrote Local 9 Steward Adam Clevenger. “If we can do anything to spread your message let me know.”
Another UAW lodge, Local 1033 in Forest, Ohio, sent a message of support to the Spokane Machinists. That union, which represents Triumph Group workers who build heat exchangers and related systems for aircraft, is closely watching the company’s behavior during the strike, because their contract is up this year as well.
“This isn’t just Local 86’s fight, or even District 751’s,” said IAM 751 President Jon Holden. “This is truly a national struggle for fair wages and retirement security, and the front line of that battle right now is in Spokane.”
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 represented by a network of local lodges that includes Local 86 in Spokane, Machinists Union Local Lodge 1123 in Coulee City and Machinists Union Local Lodge 1951 in Richland.