Countdown to the IAM 751 vote Wednesday on Boeing’s contract offer

The vote of IAM 751 membership on the Boeing contract proposal is Wednesday, and over the weekend, some disturbing details emerged in the non-stop coverage locally.

The Seattle Times’ Dominic Gates reports that it’s now clear there is a schism between the IAM International HQ in “the Other Washington” and the IAM 751 local leadership. Readers will recall that last Thursday, Tom Wroblewski, president of the local, dramatically called the proposed contract, containing substantial take-aways (as local membership calls it), “crap” and tore up the agreement. It was entirely a symbolic move; the International decreed the vote would proceed as planned.

For someone who purportedly helped negotiate the agreement, this was odd behavior, to say the least. With Gates’ reporting, it now appears there is far more to the back story than meets the eye.

The 751 media team has been put on ice by International, and all media calls (including ours) are now referred to the International. The local leadership isn’t making statements to the press; it was an International official who spoke with Gates.

It’s now pretty clear that International is driving this train, apparently by-passing the local leadership in crafting this contract extension.

The question is, “why?” What’s in it for the International to negotiate an agreement that has so split the local membership?

Whatever the outcome, Boeing comes up a winner. If it gets contract approval, it has a divided IAM 751 membership. If the contract isn’t approved, it has a divided membership and a free hand to take the 777X to Charleston, where the 787 is also assembled, to Texas, where it has a facility, to Utah, where it has another operation (and all of which are right-to-work states), or an option to take another crack at reaching an agreement here.

In any case, it’s clear there is a split between the IAM 751 and the IAM International, and this can only benefit Boeing.

Gates’ Sunday reporting includes some language that, for a family newspaper, is pretty unusual. Coupled with Wroblewski’s “crap” and Sunday’s reporting, not since the days of President Clinton and Monica Lewinsky detailed an entirely new use for cigars has mainstream reporting been so graphic.

Here are some weekend stories:

It’s a kick in the balls but better than decapitation

Legislature Approves Boeing incentives

Anguish Many of Us Can Understand

In a break from all the doom-and-gloom, hand-wringing and controversies surrounding the IAM-Boeing stuff, Seattle Times columnist Ron Judd on Sundays takes an irreverent look at news in the Puget Sound area. He lent his wit and sarcasm to this issue in Once again, Boeing’s got our back.

44 Comments on “Countdown to the IAM 751 vote Wednesday on Boeing’s contract offer

  1. Interesting that the only obstructionist no-votes on this were from Democrats.

    “This is a generational opportunity,” said Senate Ways and Means Chairman Andy Hill, R-Redmond. “This is about our aerospace economy.”

    The training measure, SB 5953, passed unanimously and the tax-incentive bill, SB 5952, was approved 42-2.

    Democratic Sens. Bob Hasegawa, of Renton, and Adam Kline, of Seattle voted no. Hasegawa was the only senator to raise significant objections during the floor debate.

    “I have a philosophical issue with putting this economic development strategy on the backs of the Machinists,” he said. “We’re asking them to sacrifice the future of the next generation of Boeing workers. That is not a sustainable economic development strategy for the state.”

    • Republicans blocked approval of the $10bn transportation bill, which would require raising the gas tax 10 cents per gallon over 10 years.

      The Gov. plans to bring it back later this month.

      • How much is the Washington state gasoline tax now, and what is the state currently doing with that money. In many states (not sure about WA), even though the gas tax is suppose to go into building and maintaining new roads, it is often put into the general fund and used at will by the state legislature and governor.

          • We have no state income tax in Texas, either. Our gas tax is only 38.4 cents, about the national average. Texas might have just a few more miles of roads than Washington does. New Hampshire, Florida, and Alaska also have no state income taxes, and all have much lower gas taxes.

      • 10 cents per gallon, eh!

        Just another indication that Grover Norquist and the anti-tax GOP ideologues are seemingly prepared to wreck Things in order to get their way, at any cost.

        Perhaps these could start checking out how much other people are paying at the pump overseas:

        • OV-099, that’s a 10 cent per gallon increase of the current gas tax for WA, which is already among the top 5 high state gas taxes in the US at 55.9 cents.

          The total gas prices other people of the world pay is irrelevant here. we are only talking about the state gasoline taxes in the US. Their taxes have nothing to do with road improvements in WA or anything to do with Boeing.

      • Funny that Boeing felt a gas tax increase of 10 cents a gallon was critical to it’s decision re: 777x. Maybe Boeing is just mad at Grover Norquist? Anyway, re: Transportation bill, apparently there was a ‘desire’ to work together, but one party’s lead negotiator was in Mexico on an urgent vacation;

        “The governor wants to hold it open,” Tom said. “I think that puts a little undue stress on members, and if we are really trying to work together — you know, let’s not do that.”

        Thus ends Inslee’s plan to pass a transportation bill, announced grandly at a news conference Tuesday, and proving the adage that governor proposes and the Legislature disposes. The whole idea was a little odd in the first place, Tom said, given the fact that the bill was nowhere close to ready, the bill isn’t necessary for Boeing’s purposes, and the House Democrats’ transportation lead is in no position to negotiate. Tom said House Transportation Chairwoman Judy Clibborn is in Mexico on vacation. She isn’t cutting it short. “That makes it a little difficult,” he said.
        Smart money has been that no deal will emerge until lawmakers return for a 60-day session in January. And in the last day or so, a rather convincing case has emerged that Boeing never made a gas-tax increase a condition for staying in the state.

        For one thing, members of the Machinists Union are due to vote next week on a contract that makes big concessions on health and retirement benefits, offers a no-strike clause, and says in black and white that if the union says yes, the production line will be built in the Puget Sound area. Lawmakers say they have been convinced by Boeing lobbyists that the tax-break bill also must be passed. But the transportation bill? They think the governor was making it up.

      • “OV-099, that’s a 10 cent per gallon increase of the current gas tax for WA, which is already among the top 5 high state gas taxes in the US at 55.9 cents.”

        A ten per cent increase per liter could perhaps give some rise in sympathy for the people who’re complaining, not a ten per cent increase per gallon. 😉

        As shown in the link, the price for a gallon of gas in the US is at the very bottom among industrialised nations. Not surprisingly, therefore, compared with the rest of the world the U.S. has long since been known as the number one gas guzzler country. Hence, complaining about a 10 cent increase per gallon just goes to show how far a party that’s seemingly opposed to any tax hike whatsoever is willing to go in order to achieve their goals. The modern GOP looks more and more like the premier anti-modernity party. A party that’s seemingly clueless about the scientific method, and now macroeconomics as well.

  2. “The question is, “why?” What’s in it for the International to negotiate an agreement that has so split the local membership?”

    I’m going to guess for the International it is about survival.

    If the agreement does not pass and 777X is built outside of Puget Sound, how long before programs left in Puget Sound (other than 737) have layoffs. Due paying members decrease and IAM becomes weaker.
    No matter which way the vote goes, Boeing wins something substantial.

    If the International supports the contract extension this should be taken as a serious sign that Boeing will be willing to locate the program elsewhere.

    In my opinion, I believe IAM members have two choices, one bad and the other worse.

    Accept the contract-Lose the pension, Health care cost go up, get the $10,000 bonus and 777x and Wing building are built in Puget Sound.

    In this scenario, IAM loses the battle, but may win the war.
    The new wing building is key, win that and Puget Sound may have a fighting chance at building the “clean sheet” airplane.

    Reject the contract-777X built elsewhere, Machinists laid off as legacy programs wind down.

    If this happens I wonder how many ready to retire today workers (both Machinsts and Engineers) would retire? Boeing brain and skill drain happening faster than Boeing would like?

    Good Luck IAM 751, you’ve got some big decisions to make that affect us all in Puget Sound.

  3. It seems for whatever reason that BA is again shoving the old workers out as fast as they can, example the age 58 instead of age 60 ploy. Looks like the pursuit of cheaper labor ( newbies) above all other considerations. And of course the long since discredited GE way a la Jack Welch. Add to that the push to ramp up production on the 737 makes one wonder if there is some disparate versions of what is needed in the corner office. Or too many power point rangers both at IAM natioinal and BA Chicago.

    The vote no campaign seems to be more than just a few disgruntled local types with website etc.

  4. Perhaps a bigger ‘why’ is the timing that Boeing senior management has chosen. Were the company to be on a roll – say as in ten or even five years ago – it would make sense to risk income and delay to achieve long term labour savings. But now? When there is a risk (according to more than a few postings here a serious risk) of Boeing losing all chance of supremacy in commercial aviation.

    I am not normally a believer in conspiracy myths but I have to say that the sustained attack on investment in the Seattle area (whether by massive outsourcing or by the creation of branch plants), coupled with the comments of its most senior management, leads me to believe that much of this is personal, part of the invidious, collective attack on collective labour activities that characterises many elements of US society today.

    Which is a tragedy since it is well known that the success of the US was based on two, previously somewhat unique features – its innovation and the quality and training of its working force. I suppose the other ‘black hand’ here is the health cost issue (auto and other large employers have already shown the solution to the vested pension issue) and that is obviously not resolvable, at least while the US maintains its present, highly inefficient method of funding it. Here Airbus has a clear and widening advantage.

    Finally (and apologies for the length) I really question those who believe that greenfield sites can be set up and operated with ease. Airbus has far, far more experience with these than Boeing and it is noticeable that in both cases (China and the upcoming US) their function is limited to the simpler elements of aircraft assembly (if simple is the right word here!), while it has gone to great lengths to retain ownership/access to existing specialised locations – the wing construction/design element in the UK being the prime example.

    For what it is worth – probably very little – I think Boeing is risking grevious and unneeded delays and considerable risk.

  5. In the seattle times this AM- one comment by a worker ? mentions being shown a video on company time supposedly ‘ explaining” things, along with a segment by Ray Conner … IF- BIG IF true, IMO this means that BA is now in the full ‘kill the union” mode along with the sign here- NOW mantra. Don Coreleone ( no relative ;-PP) would be proud.

    • Nah. I’ve seen that video he’s talking about, Ray Conner recorded it back in early September at a Manager’s conference, and it’s been slowly filtering out to the other ranks since then. It’s not really aimed at IAM. It’s quite good, actually, he discusses BCA strategy, etc. Gave me a lot of confidence in Mr. Conner’s attitude in regard to the competition, at least.

      • incorrect. The video was “why you better do what we say and take this contract or we’re leaving town”. Pretty sure between that video and the webcast employees were forced to watch the next day, that the IAM will be filing an complaint w/ the NLRB for illegal work practices, ie..coercing w/ threats both public and private in an attempt to sway a vote during a contract vote.

  6. [Edited as violation of Reader Comment rules.]

    News Flash from 2040. Boeing China launches the most advanced passenger aircraft to date from its Shanghai plant. A few IAM machinists from Seattle who applied for visas to work in the plant were turned away from the Chinese consulate.

    • maybe thatll coincide w the chinese moon or mars landing. Additional news flash from 2040: cheapest labor ever in sweat shop like conditions blamed for 400 dead as chinese airplane fall from the sky in a fiery ball. We should remember that the people that build boeing airplanes are responsible for the flying publics safety. And that union makes sure boeing cant push them into unsafe work practices. And you can guarantee if Boeing could cut corners they would.

  7. The roots of this train wreck can be traced all the way to the Obama administration. Stay with me here, I’m just getting started.

    Boeing has been the one shining beacon in what’s left of the United States manufacturing economy. Boeing and it’s employees, by what they do, or do not do, materially effect GDP and the trade deficit. Go to any financial website and look up the charts that express those economic measures and then look at the same figures minus aerospace and transportation. You will have a tough time finding a single company, and a single labor force that can move the charts so markedly.

    The Obama Administration is looking for stability in those numbers as it is failing to create living wage jobs in all other sectors. Further, in an effort to keep Obamacare from sliding into the abyss, the offer neither passes on Obamacare excise taxes to the employees, or requires Boeing to pay them as in the contract extension of 2011. It simply allows Boeing to reduce the coverage levels to match the Obamacare limits.

    The Machinists Union, after initially backing Hillary Clinton in to 2008 presidential election, quickly changed gears to throw in with the Obama Campaign. It did so In an effort to redeem itself with the likely new President of the United States, going right down to the grassroots level. By that I mean IAM-751 was selling ‘machinists for Obama’ t-shirts at locations where members were picking up their strike pay in 2008.

    It has been said by some that the current offer was a non-negotiated ultimatum by Boeing. This is doubtful because of the timelines and the people involved. Patty Murray, for example, has been part of this for some time. Jay Inslee and many the Legislature as well. No, this was no a surprise to those at the top. This was a carefully crafted scheme formulated between the Obama administration and the Machinist’s Union international in Maryland. District Lodge 751 was directed to implement this plan. This does not forgive the fecklessness of 751’s leadership in the matter.

    As District 751’s leadership began to crack under the strain, personnel from the international were sent in to seize control and silence the staff of 751. They now control the official narrative from the Union’s standpoint, and are pushing, along with Boeing, for acceptance of the offer.

    The Rank and file of machinist’s 751 are now squarely in opposition to their local and national leadership, and this promises years of internal conflict, and probable demise of district 751, in actuality by DE-certification, or members become either Beck or religious dues objectors, or possibly a membership raid by the teamsters or UAW. Or perhaps simply by being ineffective, members will simply disregard their own union. It’s only means to be effective, the strike sanction stripped for nearly a dozen years, and as older employees who hold to the old ways, leave the company, and new employees, easily swayed by cash incentives never grow and learn the ways of the Boeing Company.

    Meanwhile, the race to the bottom continues, and the destruction American middle class is ongoing, unabated. For Boeing’s part, both it and Airbus continue to create the most massive bubble in commercial aircraft sales in history, a bubble sure to burst at the first sign of trouble, say a fuel price shock cause by a middle-east war. All the conditions, and all the triggers that lead up to the 2008 crash of the financial markets are still with us, only orders of magnitude worse in severity. Boeing and Airbus continue to book sales to marginal airlines, with no means to pay for or finance those orders. Airlines that walk the fine line of bankruptcy every day they operate.

    In short, Boeing pretends to offer job security which does not exist in the industry, and never has, and the machinist’s union pretends it can demand that which does not exist. Machinist union member who look at the offer as guaranteeing employment levels are being foolish. Company officials, in spite of the 787 debacle, who would actually double, or triple down on that error, are being equally foolish.

    No, This current battle is about politics and nothing more. The rest is just fluff. There might be winners or losers initially, but in the end, everybody will lose. Because when politicians are involved, that is what always happens. They are the only winners.

      • Sure they have. But the origin of THIS deal, is the White House. That, Scott, is what make this different. Rank and file labor’s best friends have shanked it right in the kidneys. That’s the real story. That’s the interesting bit. The rest is a tragic sideshow.

    • Interesting rant- has a few elements of truth- but many of extreme extrapolation
      1) IF workers vote to accept – but enough are unhappy- IMO -then the game of ‘ work to rule ” will be in vogue- so much for increasing production rates over the next 5 years.
      2) decert is unlikely in any case
      3) Ditto for ‘ right to work ”
      4) While local 751 leaders and some staff have a vested interest in the Boeing pension plan, I doubt they would simply roll over to allow BA to freeze it. By vested interest , full time staff who are ex-boeing get up to 10 years of credited service while working full time for union. ( This little known issue is spelled out in the legal plan documents )
      5) Lots of claims about a phony vote count – IMO- doubtful- simply cuz the feds would be called in – and all hell would break loose.
      6) BUT nothing stops layoffs if BA does another 7 late 7 fiasco – along with heads rolling in chicago – and bucu unhappy customers. All probable if BA goes to a green area for final assembly like SC.

      My .0001 cents worth.

      • Not so far fetched Mr. Hamilton. My sources indicate this offer was made to the international, and not local 751. Further, Patty Murray has been involved since early on. And she, being Senate Budget committee chair, takes direction directly from the party, and the head of that party is Barack Hussein Obama. There is NO other reason dedicated left wing democrats would act in direct opposition to the members of a union. Their political interests and demand for certain outcomes has trumped.

        • It’s openly known IAM International negotiated this and Murray was involved. Both of these have been widely reported. Boeing initiated the call to IAM. You’re certainly entitled to your theory, but I don’t buy it at all.

      • Re the theory of Obama direct hand. Since BA is in the top 5 of US exports by $$, it is somewhat logical some of his staff would be paying attention. And Mr Trumka has a second office in the WH. Even so, it would seem that such interference in worker pay- combined with the ACA would be of very high risk of alienating said support and be of marginal gain. Having said that, I’m not saying impossible, but I still remain a bit skeptical.

    • But there were no Black Helicopters in this conspiracy so it must be true. LOL

      Yes I think Boeing would love to have a plant in a RTW state and no union. But the administration and Boeing working together on this – must be good stuff – It seems just a short time ago the NLRB was going after Boeing SC.

  8. If this vote passes Mr Shuper, IAM-751 is finished as an effective labor organization. And the same may well be true if it fails given the suppression of the membership’s elected representatives. The name might be there, the staff, but the rank and file will abandon it in fact or in spirit. In practice that’s the same thing. And the mode of it’s destruction will be it’s organizational hierarchy and the political politicians it answers to.

    • texl1649 …”I am a little surprised the machinists would want to trust investment decisions over 30+ years to them’

      I suggest you do not understand ERISA fiduciary responsibilities and funding issues as they apply to private pensions like Boeing. Public pensions have few of the safeguards and only thing in common is the word pension. few private plans have a cola, and the worker bees in public pensions/unions can and do control the politicians.

      OTOH- 401K savings plans put all the risk on the worker- and historically- as a group, the average worker does not do very well. Boeing offers thru ING some help- but at the same time, the help is limited to ING funds which are not necessairily the lowest cost funds or the largest choice.

      And whether on wants to or not, by age 70 1/2 one must take out a required minimum distribution which increases every year and is taxable. meanwhile, back at the ranch- the execs get significant supplementals to their pension plans in addition to being part of the basic grunt plans.

  9. Slightly off topic, but has anyone considered a situation where a major customer could stipulate where the plane is to be built?
    Spending telephone numbers on new planes may be of some concern to a buyer, particularly after the last experiment.

    • A rather think this is related to penalties for delayed delivery. For military aircraft it is very common that the aircraft has to be build within the buying country. Well, I guess Airbus is building the A320 for some reason in China. China is a special customer.

      Back to the topic
      I just can’t understand what problem some people have with unions. Is this related somehow to the Soviet Union? Is seems It is accept in the US that money from some people is united as a stock company to reach together a certain aim.

      Boeing may pay $1,000 a month for every employee. In return the employee has to work 60 hours a week and one week holidays every two years. The question is, can such an employee ever afford an aircraft for travel?

    • To a certain degree, that has already happened; the deals where some of the work is sent to the customers homeland.
      It is possible that some customers might try to (or might have already tried to) stipulate the final assembly site, but I don’t know of any yet. I had heard that most of the airlines accepting 787s from Charleston have been much more thorough in their inspections of said aircraft.

      What really surprises me is that customers accept these clauses where the OEM is not responsible for delays due to labor action. After the somewhat management “manufactured/manipulated” strike of 2008, I would have thought that no customer (at least a major one) would allow such a clause in any purchase agreement.

      As for IAM HQ, if anybody can come up with a resonable (see above for an example of what I consider to be a not so reasonable theory) explanation for their current actions, I would really love to read it.

  10. FWIW


    More than 70% of companies that still offer a pension plan to new employees expect to do so five years from now, according to a new study released Tuesday. But among those that have already frozen their plans, nearly 40% expect to terminate them completely and settle all liabilities in that time frame.

    Among the 180 executives surveyed by Towers WatsonTW +1.73% in cooperation with Institutional Investor Forums, 58% said they already have or expect to offer lump-sum payouts to former employees to get pension risk off their books. That’s especially true of companies that are ultimately planning to shut their plans down, with 87% saying that they expect a lump-sum offer to former employees to be a part of that process.


    While the number of defined-benefit plans has been declining for many years, companies that still have them say that they are important for employee recruiting and retention. Among the roughly 30% of respondents that still have open pension plans, 73% said the plan was important to their ability to bring in new talent, and 87% said it was critical to their ability to retain workers.

    • Gee, some folks realy don`t know al the facts! Jal has already said they want their Ariplanes built only in Seattle, Boeing wouldn`t promise that, so they went to Airbus.787 in SC only puts out 1 AP per month instead of 3. Then Evt. has to fix their mistakes. How ever the vote goes, Tom (751) pres. is a true Unionist, who cares about his membership. I`m a retired Boeing emloyee, and a Union activist. Stay strong , and united !! Don`t let Boeing take this union down

  11. If they ratify this contract be ready to see the membership vote the IAM out and call for a recount from the NLRB. Everyone believes it’s rigged!

    • No, only the militant members believe it is rigged. Maybe that is why the International is running the vote and not 751. Why would Boeing want to rig the election when their goal seems to be elimination of the union altogether? Seems to me to get there just let the union reject the proposal and then move the B-777X line to SC.

      • Its may not be Boeing that wants to rig the election. It could be the IAM national which has stifled the local officers, etc. IF the vote is yes for example, the IAM751as an effective union is essentially toast.
        So from BA view, a yes vote they win- and a NO vote they also win the PR game , bugt may lose customer confidence and risk another 7 late 7 SNAFU.

        But with the Chicago corner office – it seems to be their first-second-and third priotity AFTER boosting near term stock price is to get rid of unions- a la Jack welch, harry stoneciper, and then MDC acolytes.

      • The close control of the Press by IAM International triggered a distant memory regarding censorship or muzzling of members

        And what I found was the following

        BTW Tom Baker later spent time in club fed for some financial misdeeds regarding trading in first class tickets for coach and pocketing the difference , etc

        Preaching, But Not Practicing

        A moralistic letter Tom Baker wrote four years ago to Larry McKean, Boeing human resources vice president, chiding McKean for banning workers from speaking to the media, has come back to haunt the embattled machinist union president.

        Championing principles of free speech, Baker advised McKean to emulate the press policy of District 751 of the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers.

        Wrote Baker: “Every Member of this Union is free to say anything whatsoever concerning what he or she feels about the Union or about any of its elected officials – without fear of reprisal, real or intimated.”

        Now copies of the letter are circulating in Boeing factories following Baker’s ouster of 22 popular shop stewards who advocated union reform. Moreover, Baker has made it clear that he will cut union ties to any machinist who talks to the press without his

  12. Pingback: IAM 751 Local rejects Boeing contract, say many members; still awaiting word | Leeham News and Comment

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