Handful of Machinists march, demand contract vote

EVERETT — About 30 members of the Machinists union protested their local union leaders’ decision not to put the latest contract proposal from the Boeing Co. to a vote by members.

“Give us a voice!” they chanted Wednesday afternoon as they marched from Boeing’s Everett plant to their local union hall across the street.

They were met there by a handful of fellow International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) members who support District 751 President Tom Wroblewski’s decision to reject what the company called its “best and final counter-proposal” last Thursday.

March organizer Paul Fritzler called for both a vote on the offer and for District 751 and Boeing representatives to resume negotiations.

If the two sides can’t agree on terms, the IAM’s international leadership “needs to step in and force a vote,” he said.

Fritzler, 48, is a structures mechanic on the 767 line, and has worked for Boeing for three years.

Despite the small turnout, he said he thinks members would approve the proposal.

“This is a high-stakes poker game, and I don’t know if I’m comfortable calling Boeing’s bluff,” Fritzler said.

Wroblewski said the negotiating team rejected it because it wasn’t a substantial improvement on Boeing’s previous offer, which union members rejected by a 2-to-1 margin in November.

He also said they couldn’t accept Boeing’s requirement that they recommend union members approve the offer.

Shortly after talks broke down last week, many high-profile elected officials, national union representatives and some rank-and-file union members have called on District 751 leaders to put it to a vote by members.

This week, some labor leaders, including state Rep. Mike Sells, D-Everett,* have said elected officials shouldn’t push either side toward a particular outcome.

Longtime Boeing employee and union member, Lester Mullen, 59, came out Wednesday to oppose a vote on Boeing’s offer.

“Until there’s consensus between Boeing and the union (negotiators), there’s nothing to vote on,” Mullen said.

He understands newer members’ fear that the current drama will end with Boeing moving jobs out of state, but it is just part of contract negotiations, he said.

Mullen has faith that Boeing and union leaders will reach terms both sides can live with and allow the company to build its new airplane, the 777X, in Everett.

“I don’t want our legacy to be that we ran Boeing out of here,” he said. “I want our legacy to be we kept good jobs here.”

*Correction, December 19, 2013: This story originally misstated state Rep. Mike Sells’ position on contract negotiations between the Boeing Co. and the Machinists union. Sells has not called for any specific action from either party. He said that elected officials shouldn’t interject themselves into the process.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com.

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