Boeing's IAM members narrowly approved the contract last week,
effectively sacrificing their pensions for guaranteed work on the
new 777X jet.
But the contract vote left deep divisions between local union
activists who generally opposed the deal, and the national union
leadership who supported it.
If the local workers are successful in winning control of the
national union, it would likely give rise to a much more militant
workforce that could pose a long-term threat for Boeing, which has a
checkered past with its Seattle-area workers and has lost 200 days
of production over the last 25 years to strikes.
Jason Redrup, a member of the Seattle-based IAM local 751, and Jay
Cronk, a former employee of the national union, told Reuters they
are planning to run for vice president and president of the IAM,
That would be a direct challenge to R. Thomas Buffenbarger, who has
been IAM president since 1997. It would be the first contested IAM
leadership election in decades, according to local union
Buffenbarger disagreed with that characterization and said that to
get on the ballot, he has to garner 25 nominations from the more
than 900 local IAM lodges, as would any candidate.
"We all run for nomination," he told Reuters.
Last August, the IAM agreed to hold new nominations and new
elections for its leadership after an investigation by the U.S.
Department of Labor Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS).
The investigation found the union didn't provide notice of
nomination and "members were denied reasonable opportunity to
nominate candidates when some members were working at the time," the
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Redrup and Cronk are angry over the way last week's contract vote
unfolded, especially the timing of the ballot on Jan 3, when Redrup
said many of the older machinists — who have earned more vacation
days through seniority — were away from the area.
Older machinists were generally more motivated to protect their
hard-won pensions, whereas their younger colleagues voiced more
concern that failing to vote for the contract would cost them their
jobs if Boeing moved the work elsewhere.
About 8,000 of 31,000 eligible machinists did not cast a vote last
week, as the sweetened contract was approved by only 600 votes in a
slim 51 percent majority. A vote on the first version of the
contract, in November, was firmly rejected and only 5,000 failed to
(Reporting by Bill Rigby and Alwyn
Scott; editing by Ken Wills)
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