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December 16, 2013 at 11:42 AM

Labor Council seeks apology from governor for urging Boeing contract vote

Update at 4:25 p.m.

The Washington State Labor Council on Monday called for Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee to apologize for urging the Machinists union to vote on a new Boeing contract.

“I know what I do when I’ve offended people, particularly when I’ve offended a lot of people,” said Jeff Johnson, president of the Labor Council.

When asked if the governor should issue an apology, Johnson said, “that certainly seems appropriate to me.”

The backlash to Inslee’s call for a vote has been growing for several days, Johnson said, and culminated in labor groups canceling plans to attend a holiday reception at the governor’s mansion on Monday evening.

Groups canceling out include the state Labor Council, the Machinists, the Washington Federation of State Employees and many others, Johnson said.

“I don’t know of any union that’s going to be attending tonight,” he said. “They are choosing not to go to this celebration because of this action the governor took.”

Update at 12:20 p.m.

David Postman, a spokesman for Gov. Jay Inslee, reacted to the Labor Council criticism, saying in an email that “the governor believes machinists should have the opportunity to vote. But to be clear, he has not urged a vote yea or nay. He has consistently said that isn’t his role and fully respects each and every IAM member who will make that decision based on the individual circumstances of their family.”

Original post

The president of the Washington State Labor Council on Monday criticized Gov. Jay Inslee and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen of Everett for urging the Machinists union to allow a vote on a proposed Boeing contract.

“While Governor Jay Inslee and Congressman Rick Larsen are certainly entitled to their opinions about Boeing’s proposal, putting their opinions in a press statement is absolutely disrespectful to the Machinists and to the labor movement. That they expressed their views so publicly and so supportively of the company’s position reveals how little they understand and respect the collective bargaining process and the generations of sacrifice made by machinists to make this company prosperous,” Jeff Johnson, the Labor Council president wrote in a statement.

Inslee and Larsen, both Democrats, released statements on Friday urging the union to allow a vote.

“Union membership gives each worker a say in his or her future. I believe the Machinists should have the opportunity to exercise that right by voting on this contract proposal,” Inslee said, in a news release Friday. “We’ve heard from some rank and file members and from leadership of the International that the agreement that emerged deserves a vote. That should happen soon as I have become increasingly concerned that we are at a perilous point in our effort to bring the 777X to Washington state.”

Similarly, Larsen said, “I urge IAM 751 leaders to let their members vote on the contract offer from Boeing.”

Both the Labor Council and the Machinists backed Inslee during his successful 2012 bid for governor.

Local and national leaders of the Machinists union have split on whether to allow a vote. Boeing has said the contract would secure work on the company’s new 777X airplane at a time when numerous other states are competing for those jobs.

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