Inside the Machinist Union’s ‘Civil War’

Yesterday, a respected aerospace analyst described to us what’s going on within the International Association of Machinists – the membership of which just rejected a pivotal contract negotiated between Boeing and the union – as “a civil war” (see photo below for a historical example.)

The Mason-Dixon line in this case separates the national union leaders – whom took the lead in negotiating the doomed contract – and local leaders, who warned that the contract was going to go down in flames (so to speak) if brought to a vote.

“There’s a civil war going on right now between the local and international,” Scott Hamilton told us. “Local leadership got mugged in the process here.”

The Everett Herald today published more details about how the national leadership in Washington, D.C., forced the contract to a vote.

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 proposal 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.

That said, local leaders will probably bear the brunt of workers’ discontent.

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.

Rank-and-file members are now called for local leader Tom Wroblewski to step down.

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

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