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Machinists need a visit from the ghost of Christmas future


Last week I said the Machinists should tell us their plan B. And Wednesday, at a demonstration outside the Machinists union hall in Everett, executive board member Lester Mullen made his case.

“Well, I understand the anxiety. But a lot of the people that are upset are relatively new. They’ve never been through contract talks, they don’t understand the process,” said Mullen. “I would say, just let our leadership do their job, let Boeing leadership do their job, when there is a proposal to be voted on, we’ll have a proposal to vote on.”

He’s saying wait until the contract is up in 2016, don’t be fooled by Boeing’s attempts to improvise.

On the other side was Machinist Paul Fritzler, who wants a vote on Boeing’s latest offer. “This is a high stakes poker game and I don’t know that I’m comfortable calling Boeing’s bluff.”

But union exec Mullen says don’t let Boeing short circuit the tried and true negotiating process. The union deserves a real negotiation.

“And that has happened,” Mullen said. “Boeing and our union have yet to sit down and work towards each other. There has been ultimatums by Boeing – and we gave them an offer last week and they turned around 24 hours later and gave us another ultimatum. It’s not a negotiation, and it needs to be.”

The other factor is an allegation posted on the Machinists website, which accuses Boeing of wanting to freeze the Machinists retirement plan so the company can use the money to supplement the pensions of Boeing executives including CEO Jim McNerney!

There’s been no response from Boeing to that – maybe they think it’s too absurd to respond to – but there are machinists who believe it.

My question is, as much as we all hate being bullied by big corporations, how does the union figure it’ll have more leverage in two years when the contract is up?

My guess is that the execs have taken a peek at the bids from the various states and they see plenty of good options.

So now – I will take on the role of the ghost of Christmas future – conjuring the shadows of things that may be shadows of 2016 when the Machinists’ contract comes up for renegotiation.

By then, the North Charleston Dreamliner factory will be up to speed. And there will be new state-of-the art factories going up in other states. Boeing execs will offer the same pension changes and tell the union that a strike will only speed up an exit that is already under way.

And little by little, Everett becomes Detroit.

It won’t be all bad, we’ll designate the old 747 factories as historic landmarks.

Maybe use them to expand Museum of Flight.

Or build the world’s largest indoor amusement park, which could include a thrill ride through an old airplane factory, as a salute to the days when they used to build planes here.

Or it could be the world’s largest Chihuly museum.

But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

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