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‘Washington’s union movement has IAM 751 members’ backs’

As Machinists at Boeing begin contract talks, labor solidarity is evident

SEATTLE (March 11, 2024) — For the first time in 16 years, International Association of Machinists (IAM) District Council 751 began negotiations with the Boeing Co. last week to fully replace the union contract covering more than 32,000 production workers that will expire on Friday the 13th of September. The outcome of these negotiations is critical, not just for Boeing employees and a company facing criticism over the impact of cost-cutting on airplane quality and safety, but also for the economy of the Puget Sound that depends on a healthy Boeing.

“These critical contract negotiations affect so many more workers in Washington than just the Machinists at Boeing,” said April Sims, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. “They obviously affect Boeing engineers and technical workers represented by SPEEA and Boeing truck drivers represented by Teamsters Local 174. But they also affect so many other workers in our community whose jobs and neighborhoods are dependent on hard-working Boeing employees earning family-supporting wages and benefits. That’s why Washington’s union movement has IAM 751 members’ backs in these contract talks. We’ll be following them closely and stand ready to support our union siblings at IAM 751 any way we can.”

Jon Holden, President and Directing Business representative of IAM District Council 751, explained at a press conference on Friday that the union’s goals for a new contract are the product of more than a decade of town hall meetings and surveys with rank-and-file members. Those goals will include:

  • Increasing wages at least 40 percent over three to four years.

  • Restoring retirement security by reinstating the defined-benefit pension plan the company took away in 2014.

  • Lowering out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

  • Easing mandatory overtime and other work rules that negatively impact work-life balance.

  • Ensuring that Boeing’s next airplane is built in the Puget Sound region.

“Job security is going to be one of the most important issues moving forward,” Holden said. “Our members deserve to build the next airplane program. We have to fill our factories with work, we have to ensure we have work for our current members, for those that follow behind us, and everyone else. We’re fighting for (Boeing) engineers. We’re fighting for Teamsters truck drivers. We’re literally fighting for salaried, non-represented workers who’re count on these jobs as well… We need jobs for 50 years, not just four years.”

Although Holden declined to reveal IAM 751’s specific bargaining proposals on Friday, he did outline is broad terms the union’s priorities and why they are so important to members. Here are some more excerpts from Holden’s comments at the press conference.

QUALITY AND SAFETY — “This time we will be making proposals that we never have in the past around the safety and quality of the airplane. I guess in decades past, maybe leaders didn’t feel the need, but in the times we’re in today… we have to take a look in the mirror ourselves, but I will tell you, that’s to protect the company from itself. We feel we are the last line of defense for some of the changes that they make. (We have) the ability to stand up and say, ‘This is wrong’… that’s what union-represented workers have the ability to do, and we are going to do that. But we are also going to make proposals that try to codify that in contract language.”

WAGES — “Wages is a very broad issue. It’s not just maximum pay — however it certainly is that — It’s going to be about starting pay for those who enter the workforce. It’s about progression to maximum pay. It’s about being able to receive promotions. A lot of our members take their own time to train and gather minimum requirements so they can be promoted into another job, and we need to do that seamlessly so they don’t have to start their progression over.”

RETIREMENT SECURITY — “We are proposing a defined benefit pension. We have an open mind about retirement security. Our members deserve that. They deserve to be able to count on a retirement after a long career dedicated to the aerospace industry and dedicated to Boeing. That’s out starting position and we’re serious about it.”

LEVERAGE FOR CONTRACT GAINS — “I think we saw several recent examples with the UAW (auto workers), with the Teamsters at UPS, we’ve seen our IAM members in St. Louis at Boeing, and our IAM Brothers and Sisters at Spirit in Wichita make very important gains. Working people across this country are making strides for wages and benefits and rights, and we feel very confident that we are in a great position of leverage. We made the company aware of that, that we are going to push them farther than they thought they would be at the end of this, and our members deserve every bit of it.”

OPTIMISM FOR AN AGREEMENT — “There is a path to an agreement. I believe that we can — if we bargain in good faith on both sides — address the priorities our members have set out for us. I believe we can get there. We are going to push this company farther than they thought they would go and we’re going to get an agreement. And we hope to do that without a work stoppage. That is our goal.”

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