State labor council spurns Larsen with no endorsement

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s call for a vote on the Boeing Co.’s controversial contract offer to the Machinists union has cost him an endorsement from labor.

The loss is largely symbolic because Larsen faces no serious challenger in his bid for re-election in Washington’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Everett and stretches north on I-5 to the Canadian border.

The Washington State Labor Council’s political committee endorsed Democrats in every one of the state’s 10 congressional races except the 2nd District. The labor group didn’t support any candidate in that race.

“Larsen’s name didn’t come up,” said Kathy Cummings, a spokeswoman for the council.

In a statement issued by Larsen’s campaign, the veteran lawmaker said he respected union members’ feelings.

“I understand the anger of the Snohomish County Labor Council, accept and respect their decision, and still believe that Boeing will get a 777X built by the best aerospace workforce in the world, the Machinists of Puget Sound,” Larsen said.

The Everett Democrat angered many supporters in labor for all but backing the Boeing Co.’s concession-laden contract offer to the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) last winter. Boeing executives said that if the contract was approved, the company would build the 777X and its carbon-fiber-composite wings in Washington.

The offer moved union members from a defined pension to a defined-contribution retirement plan, such as a 401(k), and rolled back other formerly negotiated benefits.

Local union leaders rejected the terms, but Larsen and other elected officials said members should vote on the offer. Larsen did not say Machinists should vote yes. But he did say that Boeing needs to cut costs and that without a labor agreement, “future production at the Everett factory is imperiled.”

Machinists narrowly approved the contract in January.

Mike Sells, executive secretary of the Snohomish County Labor Council and a state representative, suggested at the time that Larsen give up his federal pension since that’s the choice given Boeing workers.

Jeff Johnson, president of the state labor council, also took aim at Larsen, along with Gov. Jay Inslee, for issuing public statements urging a vote.

“While Gov. Jay Inslee and congressman Rick Larson are certainly entitled to their opinions about Boeing’s proposal, putting their opinions in a press statement is absolutely disrespectful to the Machinists and to the labor movement,” Johnson said in December.

“That they expressed their views so publicly and so supportively of the company’s position reveals how little they understand and respect the collective bargaining process and the generations of sacrifice made by machinists to make this company prosperous,” Johnson added.

In Washington and Oregon, the IAM represents about 33,000 Boeing employees.

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

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