Tom Wroblewski, president of IAM 751–the Boeing touch labor union in Puget Sound (WA)–announced last night he is retiring on January 31.
The Seattle Times has the full story. In a nutshell, Wroblewski’s health blew up alongside the labor relations with Boeing over the 777X site selection and the relationship within the District 751 and between 751 and the International.
We’ve casually known Wroblewski for many years. We like Wroblewski and knew he had the welfare of his members at heart. We disagreed with him and 751’s positions on many occasions, just as we did with Boeing’s position toward labor, but we always respected Wroblewski.
More to the point, we also believe Wroblewski was more in tune with his membership and more concerned for 751’s welfare than the International. We felt so strongly about this that in February 2010, at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference, we suggested that it would be in 751’s interest to “divorce” itself from International.
Wroblewski, who shies away from the press, called us protesting our suggestion. We later learned that he got into hot water with International over our opinion that he knew better what was important for 751 than the International leadership.
Wroblewski was further cranked with us a few years later when we advocated that Washington State needed to become Right To Work to make it more competitive with other states competing for our aerospace business. And he didn’t like our recollection that it was the IAM (though a different District) that lead to the shutdown of Eastern Airlines rather than grant concessions to save 10,000 jobs. (International president Tom Buffenbarger had a hand in that one.)
Readers know well what we think of how International handled the 777X contract negotiations and ran roughshod over 751. We opined that International was more concerned with retaining 751’s membership dues than it was about what was best for the members.
Under Wroblewski, 751 engaged in several philanthropic activities, most notably raising money for guide dog training and related needs. These activities got little press (including from this venue), who instead focused on the “sexier” stories of labor contract negotiations and strife with Boeing management.
A new leader for 751 may well be more militant than Wroblewski. While there now is a contract in place well into 2024, a militant leader for 751 can nonetheless make things difficult in an already tense situation for years to come. We think this has the potential to be a negative development for Boeing.
We’re sorry to see Wroblewski leave under these circumstances but not surprised. We wish Wroblewski a speedy recovery.