Machinists ratify contract at Boeing
Some 18,400 Machinists Union members in Washington, Oregon and Kansas voted Sept. 29 by a better than 80 percent margin to approve a new three-year contract with the Boeing Company and end their 28-day strike.
Approximately 900 workers at the parts plant in Gresham are represented by Machinists Lodge 63. They, too, accepted the offer by more than 80 percent. After the vote, members tore down their strike shack on Sandy Blvd., and began returning to work on the evening of Sept. 29. Under the new contract, employees don’t have to report back to work until Oct. 12.
The company agreed to change the terms of its last offer — which was rejected Sept. 1 by an 86 percent margin — to meet worker demands for higher pension benefits and no increases in out-of-pocket costs for medical coverage, union officials said.
“You stood up and said ‘no’ to corporate greed,” said Dick Schneider, aerospace coordinator for the International Association of Machinists. “We hope this is a wake-up call to corporate America.”
“On every major issue — from health insurance and pension to retiree medical and team leader, our members’ solidarity forced Boeing to change their offer,” said Mark Blondin, president of IAM District 751 in Seattle. “We have shown the American people we can stand up and get a multi-national corporation to do the right thing.”
The Seattle Times reported that Boeing hired former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt to mediate a settlement. Secret talks took place Sept. 23 in Washington, D.C., and a tentative deal was announced Sept. 25.
The Machinists Union endorsed Gephardt for president last year in the Democratic primary. He is a former congressman from St. Louis, Mo.
With Gephardt in the room, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Alan Mulally and lead negotiator Jerry Calhoun bargained directly with Blondin, Machinists International President Thomas Buffenbarger, and Schneider, who is a member of Portland Lodge 63.
Prior to that, the company had received letters urging a return to bargaining from Oregon Congressmen David Wu, Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer, and from Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.
“The new agreement supports our business plan and addresses the key issues raised by IAM-represented employees and the union,” said Mulally.
Terms of the contract include:
“Since the 1990s, no union in North America has held the line on health care and retiree medical — costs that have risen dramatically. Our members did just that in this strike,” Blondin said.
“The overwhelming unity and solidarity of the Machinist Union membership won this strike,” said Bob Petroff, directing business representative of Machinists District Lodge 24 in Portland.
Rick Bender, president of the Washington State Labor Council, called it, “a tremendous victory not just for the striking Boeing employees, but for all American workers.”