Angry Machinists could seek leaders’ ouster

EVERETT — The turbulence could just be starting for the Machinists union at Boeing, whose members this week overwhelmingly rejected a contract negotiated in secret by the union’s international leaders and company executives.

Rank-and-file members are angry that their local leaders allowed Boeing to force an ultimatum on them: Accept a contract full of concessions, or risk losing the 777X. That ultimatum could lead to a push to oust District 751 leaders, members say. There’s even been talk of leaving the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.

“Today is the eye of the hurricane — calm after the storm. But the rest of the storm is coming,” said a rank-and-file representative involved in leading District 751. The representative spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

By all accounts, IAM leadership in Washington, D.C., and Boeing representatives kept leaders of Seattle-based District 751 in the dark about the contract talks before presenting the porposal to them less than two weeks ago. The offer called for major concessions — including trading pensions for 401(k) plans and increasing health care costs — in exchange for placing 777X final assembly in Everett and a $10,000 signing bonus, among other promises.

Local union leaders tried to block the Boeing proposal from even being put to a vote by the membership but were overruled by national IAM leaders. The leaders from the East Coast called the shots after that, prohibiting District 751 leaders from speaking publicly about the offer.

District 751’s roughly 32,000 members were caught off guard. It appeared that the local leaders they elected were willing to give up hard-fought economic gains without member consent or similar concessions from labor leaders and Boeing executives.

True, District 751 leaders were excluded from the initial bargaining, but members didn’t see them put up much resistance to the deal that the national union delivered.

“There are some very hard feelings — some of them are mine,” said Paul Veltkamp, a quality inspector on the 747 line in Everett.

Late Wednesday, after the count revealed that union members overwhelmingly rejected the offer, the IAM’s national aerospace coordinator, Mark Johnson, stood to announce the results and was greeted by boos and jeers at District 751’s headquarters in Seattle.

“Maybe for the first time, members in this district have felt that their interests and the international’s interests are not the same,” Veltkamp said. “I don’t know if that’s true. That’s just how people feel.”

Several union members said some in District 751 have even been talking about leaving IAM for another union.

While members’ anger has been largely directed at the international leadership, District 751 leaders, especially President Tom Wroblewski, could face internal challenges.

At one point last week, in front of angry Machinists members, Wroblewski tore up the contract and called it “crap.” But before and after, he was ostensibly neutral, but cast it in a positive light.

“He tore it up Thursday, and taped it back together Friday morning,” the District 751 rank-and-file leader said.

Members might have lost confidence in Wroblewski given his inability to stand up to the international leadership.

“He’s done,” the source said. “I don’t see how he serves out his term.”

Re-elected in 2012, Wroblewski has three more years.

He and other District 751 officials were not talking to media Thursday, according to a district spokesman. It isn’t clear how members can vote out their leaders before their terms end.

“I would’ve followed that man into fire” before the contract offer, said the union member who spoke on condition of not being named.

Issaquah aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton of Leeham and Co. said he has heard the same thing from his Machinists sources, who told him they already have identified a replacement for Wroblewski.

While the long-term economic impact of the dissension isn’t clear, Boeing will benefit, Hamilton said.

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

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

The Lenz composting facility borders. (Google Earth)
Firm calls rules for expanded composting near Stanwood ‘unlawful’

Among other things, Lenz Enterprises claims a condition barring odors from its composting is “unreasonable.”

Janette Burk and Timur Keskinturk are fighting to keep their coffee shop location in Alderwood Mall. Photographed in Seattle, Washington on May 23, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Alderwood mall evicts Turkish cafe that fought Starbucks ‘exclusive’

Kismet Turkish Cafe Bakery must clear out by Tuesday. The owners of the kiosk blame the global coffee chain.

Nuno Taborda
Former Rolls Royce executive to lead Everett aerospace firm

magniX, which builds electric aircraft motors, has hired Nuno Taborda as its next CEO.

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, people stand in the lobby for Amazon offices in New York. Amazon shareholders on Wednesday, May 25, 2022 voted down a proposal calling for an independent audit of working conditions at the e-commerce behemoth's warehouses. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Amazon shareholders nix warehouse working conditions audit

They did, however, approve compensation packages for six top executives, including CEO Andy Jassy.

Janette Burk and Timur Keskinturk are fighting to keep their coffee shop location in Alderwood Mall. Photographed in Seattle, Washington on May 23, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
A Turkish café served coffee next to Starbucks. They were told to move.

After years, Kismet Turkish Cafe Bakery’s owners say they were told to relocate in Alderwood mall due to a nearby Starbucks kiosk.

New LGI Homes on Thursday, May 12, 2022 in Sultan, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
As remote work brings newcomers, Sultan gets a boost and growing pains

Houses are sprouting. Traffic is worsening. And new Sky Valley residents find “we don’t really get Uber Eats out here.”

Epic Ford on the corner of 52nd Street and Evergreen Way in Everett is closed. The dealership has been in business for more than 50 years. (Janice Podsada / The Herald)
After 50 years, Everett’s Epic Ford dealership closes shop

It opened in 1971, when gas guzzling muscle cars like the Ford Mustang still ruled the road.

Dan Bates / The Herald
When Seattle Genetics founder, Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients.  His efforts are paying off in lives.
Bothell biotech CEO resigns after domestic-violence allegation

Clay Siegall co-founded Seagen, which develops therapies for cancer patients. He’s accused of attacking his wife.

FILE - A sign at a Starbucks location in Havertown, Pa., is seen April 26, 2022. Starbucks says it will pay travel expenses for U.S. employees to access abortion or gender-confirmation procedures if those services aren't available within 100 miles of a worker’s home. The Seattle coffee chain says, Monday, May 16, 2022, the benefit will also be available to dependents of employees enrolled in its health care coverage. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)
Starbucks will cover travel for workers seeking abortions

Amazon and Tesla also will provide the benefit. Walmart and Facebook have stayed silent.

A barista pours steamed milk into a red paper cup while making an espresso drink at a Starbucks coffee shop in the Pike Place Market, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Seattle. It's as red as Santa's suit, a poinsettia blossom or a loud Christmas sweater. Yet Starbucks' minimalist new holiday coffee cup has set off complaints that the chain is making war on Christmas. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Interfaith group asks Starbucks to drop vegan milk surcharge

They say the practice amounts to a tax on people who have embraced plant-based lifestyles.

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted Thursday, Oct. 14,2021 by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines to keep canceling flights at high level for weeks

Flight cancellations since April will continue. The chaos has been damaging for Seattle’s hometown airline.

FILE - An airplane flies past the Boeing logo on the company's headquarters in Chicago, on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001. Boeing Co., a leading defense contractor and one of the world's two dominant manufacturers of airline planes, is expected to move its headquarters from Chicago to the Washington, D.C., area, according to two people familiar with the matter. The decision could be announced as soon as later Thursday, May 5, 2022, according to one of the people. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing expected to move headquarters from Chicago to DC area

The move would put Boeing executives close to their key customer, the Pentagon, and the FAA.