SEATTLE — The head of the Puget Sound-area Machinists union, Tom Wroblewski, was at the vortex of the months-long battle over a new Boeing Co. contract.
It took a toll.
He was pressured by national union officials to accept an offer he thought was meager. He was called out by a divided union rank-and-file for allowing a vote — and then for not allowing one. He endured outside pressure, too, from politicians anxious to seal a deal with Boeing to build the 777X in Washington.
Wroblewski announced Tuesday night that he’s retiring at the end of January. He cited health concerns and the recent stress of negotiations over the contract, which was narrowly approved by Machinists on Jan. 3 — against his recommendation.
Wroblewski, 59, revealed his retirement at a meeting here of the union district council. He said the stress of the past three months has put him in the hospital twice since Dec. 27.
The experience “changed my perspective on work-life balance,” he said in a statement. “Your job should not destroy your health.”
Wroblewski has served as president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District Lodge 751 since March 2007. He was re-elected in 2008 and 2012. Before that, he served as District 751’s grievance coordinator and as a business representative, with assignments in Everett, Renton, Auburn, Frederickson and Seattle, the union said.
District 751 has some 33,000 members, mostly in Western Washington but also in Oregon and Kansas. The union said it will follow district bylaws to select a replacement to serve out the remainder of Wroblewski’s term, which runs to 2016.
That was the year, too, when the Boeing Machinists contract was to expire. But Boeing sought an early renewal.
In November, Machinists overwhelmingly voted against an earlier version of Boeing’s proposal, which had been negotiated at the behest of national IAM leaders in Upper Marlboro, Md.
In January’s vote, machinists approved an eight-year contract extension with a slim 51 percent vote in favor. The pact comes with a promise by Boeing to build the 777X in Everett and to continue to build the 737 MAX in Renton until 2024. Opponents of the contract said the cost was too high: Among other concessions, the traditional pension was frozen and workers will move to a defined-contribution savings plan.
Local union officials had urged the 33,000 members to reject the deal, arguing that the proposal surrendered too much at a time of company profitability.
Wroblewski had argued against even voting on the second offer, saying the proposals were too similar. But national union leaders overruled him.
Political leaders including Gov. Jay Inslee also pushed for the second vote, citing concern about losing the Boeing 777X jobs to another state.
In his statement issued late Tuesday, Wroblewski called on union leaders and members to work together.
“We now have been awarded the right to build the 777X, and we must find a way to move this membership forward,” he said. “I leave here honored to have served this membership, knowing that I always had the best interests of this membership guiding me.”