What should IAM 751 Machinist Union members expect from our elected leaders in the local District 751 and the International? I know what I expect: Solid leadership and information that fully explains the consequences of either a yes or no vote. The membership has a huge decision to make Friday that will affect their jobs, and the local area for years to come.
I am a third-generation union member, former Union Steward and have been a member of IAM 751 for 27 years. I have seen what union membership has done for my family, the local economy and myself. To call me pro-union is an understatement.
But I am disappointed in my union leadership. We have a group that is entrenched. We have had a series of leaders that have been hand selected by each of the preceding district presidents. This has gone on since 1980 with Tom Baker, who went to federal prison for his actions within the union, Bill Johnson, Mark Blondin and now Tom Wroblewski. How can I say this? It is due to how the constitution of IAM 751 is written. To be eligible to run for district president, a union member must first be elected to the district council. Because of this, 99.9 percent of the membership is ineligible to run for district president. A group within the union has worked very hard to control who is elected or appointed to the district council.
Tom Wroblewski was not a member of the district council when Mark Blondin in 2007 took a position at the International. A district council member stepped down so that Wroblewski could be appointed. Magically, Wroblewski was eligible to run for IAM 751 District President. We have had him ever since.
In November, the membership was given the opportunity to vote on a contract extension that came out of the blue. Wroblewski initially took a neutral position on the offer until at a Local meeting where he was lambasted for his lack of leadership. Suddenly, the contract offer was in his words “A piece of crap.” I can imagine that he thought he was going to be tarred and feathered. So he changed his position on the contract offer.
Now Wroblewski is telling us to vote no, but does not offer any real alternatives. Thomas Buffenbarger, our international president, tells us in a letter “this vote will be the final vote on this proposed contract,” that we must take Boeing’s threat of moving the 777X seriously.
We wait until Friday to vote again on the contract extension with some improvements, but with the knowledge that Boeing may build the 777X somewhere else if we vote it down. Boeing and the union have placed the membership in a very difficult position. Many in the community want the membership to accept the contract but don’t see how difficult it is to accept the changes to our retirement. We are damned if we do and damned if we don’t. How would you like that?