Over the past few days, a number of media reports have called public attention to the fact that local and international machinists union bosses are at odds with one another about whether rank-and-file union members in Washington State’s Puget Sound area should ratify or reject the latest contract offer from airplane maker Boeing.
As Steve Greenhouse of the New York Times reminded his readers yesterday (see the link below), after members of Union District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists (IAM/AFL-CIO) rejected an eight-year contract extension in November, the IAM’s top brass in the Washington, D.C., area took the extraordinary of ordering a new vote, scheduled for January 3.
Is IAM czar Tom Buffenbarger pushing for a “yes” vote because he thinks that’s in the best interest of unionized workers in Washington State? That’s not what Greenhouse, normally a Big Labor apologist, apparently thinks.
Rather, Buffenbarger and co. evidently think that, if the contract offer goes down, “more than 10,000 union jobs” are likely to be moved “to a right-to-work state” where it might be “difficult” for the IAM hierarchy to secure monopoly-bargaining privileges over employees.
And that could mean a big loss in [forced union] dues — Boeing workers in the Puget Sound area paid $25.5 million in dues to the international union in 2012.
Rank-and-file unionized Boeing employees in Washington State may reasonably differ about the merits of the contract offer. It includes modest raises, a $10,000 signing bonus and a commitment that final assembly and wing build for the company’s new 777x aircraft will occur in the Puget Sound region, while switching employees from a defined-benefit to a defined-contribution retirement plan and requiring them to pay a somewhat higher share of their health-care costs.
But for Buffenbarger and Local 751 union bosses, the only dispute is about what’s the best way to keep forced union dues and fees flowing into IAM coffers. What’s best for employees is, at best, a secondary matter.
Vote on New Boeing Contract Highlights a Rift in the Machinists’ Union