Rhetoric, anger increases inside Boeing Machinists Union

AP: 8af34c23-53ae-4fe5-bb85-c12df7855b6a
Boeing's board met Sunday in Chicago to start the process of considering 777X site selection. There are 54 sites in 22 states to consider. (AP Photo/The Boeing Co.) | Zoom
There has been no movement over the weekend between Boeing and its Machinists on a new contract that would secure the 777X production for Washington, but the apparent divide between the union members and their leaders continues to get bigger.

The KIRO Radio newsroom continues to get emails and texts from Boeing Machinists who are furious at how this is playing out.

They want a vote on Boeing's latest contract offer, but their leadership says there's nothing to vote on because Boeing pulled the offer.

Boeing says that's not true. The offer was rejected, not withdrawn.

The union leadership is not budging, but the governor and other politicians are continuing to pressure the union leadership for a vote. Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said the members should be able to have their say.

"The Machinists are our neighbors," he said. "They are our friends. We've known them for years. I respect the leadership. We're saying at least give the members the opportunity to vote."

But the rhetoric inside the union is growing. A leader posted on Facebook over the weekend that the local has been thrown under the bus by the international. It calls the international president and Boeing commercial airplanes CEO Ray Conner "lying snakes" and some in the international "traitorous bastards."

That leader also said he'd rather let the economy slip as a whole than give up his pension.

Labor expert and author Philip Dine said it's not uncommon to see this kind of in-fighting between union members and their leaders.

"It's a very complicated thing," he said. "I don't think it's a matter of overthrowing the union leadership. I think it's a question more of exerting their desires and their concerns about their own future."

Dine said these fights happen all the time as unions try to figure out what's best for them, and he said Boeing is making a smart play, too. "If there's a way to weaken the foe by creating some division, they'll surely go for that."

Dine, who wrote the book "State of the Unions," said Boeing is taking advantage of public opinion in this situation, knowing that most members of the public aren't in a union and they see the union as the bad guy in this fight.

Unions only represent about 11 percent of the working population.

"They don't have the support," Dine said. "They don't have the resources to wage these fights as effectively as they did, and management knows that."

Right now, there is no vote scheduled, but there is word of a possible rally outside the Machinists hall in Everett later this week to push for a vote.

Boeing's board met Sunday in Chicago to start the process of considering 777X site selection. There are 54 sites in 22 states to consider.

The company says it will have a decision early next year.

Chris Sullivan, KIRO Radio Reporter
Chris loves the rush of covering breaking news and works hard to try to make sense of it all while telling stories about real people in extraordinary circumstances.
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