Local Machinists union chief: There is no Boeing offer to vote on

EVERETT -- The head of the local Machinists union said Monday that calls from some Boeing workers asking why they cannot vote on the company's latest offer that would persuade the company to build the 777X in Washington state has a simple answer. "There is no offer to vote."

"Boeing’s offer was only on the table Thursday so long as I agreed to recommend the offer and urge you to vote yes on it. But I could not recommend you accept this offer. When I said we couldn’t do that, Boeing withdrew the offer immediately," union president Tom Worblewski said in a letter to union members at Boeing.  "So there is no offer to vote.

"As union leaders, we couldn’t go onto the shop floor to ask you to accept this proposal. Despite what Boeing is saying, the offer was almost identical to the one you rejected by a 2-to-1 margin on Nov. 13," he wrote.

"In the four-page document they passed to us Thursday afternoon, we could only identify four changes from the Nov. 13 offer, and they weren’t significant:

·         Boeing sweetened the pot with an additional $5,000 lump-sum bonus –payable in 2020. It is not a $15,000 bonus now, it is still a $10,000 bonus now.

·         Boeing increased annual maximum dental coverage by $500 per person in 2020, and by another $500 per person in 2024.

·         Boeing promised to extend the Letter of Understanding that guarantees we will keep doing 737 MAX work until 2024 – but passed no contract language on it, leaving us uncertain of how solid that guarantee was.

·         Boeing agreed to back down from its plan to keep new hires in progression for up to 22 years, and to go back to the current system that gets new hires to the maximum rate in six years. Their proposal also called for a 'joint evaluation' of the progression system.

"Every other item was EXACTLY THE SAME as the offer you rejected Nov. 13," he wrote.

"I think you’ll agree these were very minor changes, and not nearly enough to offset the things Boeing was trying to take away from you, and for the Machinists who will join us in the future:

·         Freezing your pensions, eliminating them for new Machinists and replacing them with a 'savings plan' so vague we couldn’t tell you anything about how it would work.

·         Raising everyone’s health care contributions by as much as $4,000 a year over 2011 levels by the end of the contract.

·         Limiting future wage increases to 1 percent every other year, and locking in current starting pay rates until 2024, when thousands of Boeing jobs would be below minimum wage.

"Given that you had voted so overwhelmingly against an almost identical proposal on Nov. 13, I didn’t see any point in bringing it to you for a vote, and our Business Reps agreed with me.

"So, until Boeing changes its conditions, we don’t have an offer to vote on.

"I’m sorry that there has been confusion over this issue, especially by the reported comments of the retired leader from our International headquarters, who seems to be suggesting there’s still an offer hiding out there somewhere, just waiting for you to vote on. I understand that many of you are frustrated, and I don’t blame you.

I simply ask that you work together with me as we continue to make the case that Boeing’s best chance for success – by far – is to build the 777X here inWashington state, utilizing the skills, experience and dedication of the finest aerospace workers in the world: the Machinists of District 751.

In solidarity

Tom W."

Boeing is reviewing bids from 22 states hoping to land the 777X. A final decision is expected in January. Meantime, the company announced plans to expand operations at its South Carolina plant.

In addition, Boeing announced a $10 billion stock buyback program on Monday. The move raised the company's quarterly dividend by 50 percent.