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January 13, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Machinists yank endorsement of Larsen over pension comments

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett.

Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett.

The union representing Boeing Machinists has rescinded its endorsement of Democratic Congressman Rick Larsen, saying he took Boeing’s side by pressuring the union to accept a contract that ended its pension plan.

The action is largely symbolic since Larsen, an Everett Democrat, has no major opposition for his re-election campaign this year. Still, the action exposes a rift between some top Democratic politicians and a key labor ally.

Machinists were angered at the role many prominent Democrats took in urging a vote on a contract extension that guaranteed 777X work for Washington but extracted union concessions, including replacement of the Machinists pension with a 401(k)-style retirement plan. The union narrowly accepted that deal this month.

Leadership of the Washington Machinists Council cited Larsen’s comments leading up to the Machinists vote, saying he sided with Boeing over the union. In particular, they point to a news release issued by Larsen on Dec. 13 in which he said the Boeing contract was needed to control costs for the company.

“Congressman Larsen needs to understand he was elected to represent his district in the U.S. House of Representatives, not as Boeing’s chief negotiator,” Dan Morgan, president of the Washington Machinists Council, said in a statement.

“By pressing for a vote, Larsen helped Boeing strip away pensions and health-care benefits. While we don’t expect the congressman to side with us, Boeing doesn’t need Larsen’s help to drive down wages and benefits for working families,” Morgan added.

Larsen responded in a statement emailed by a spokesman: “I understand their anger, accept and respect their decision, and still believe that Boeing will get a 777X built by the best aerospace workforce in the world, the Machinists of Puget Sound.”

Larsen likely won’t be the only Democratic politician to face the Machinists’ wrath. Snohomish County Executive John Lovick also is running this year to retain his position. (He was appointed to the vacant post after the resignation of his scandal-plagued predecessor, Aaron Reardon.) Lovick and other local politicians — all pension-holders themselves — held a news conference in Everett last month urging Machinists to accept Boeing’s contract.

In an interview, Larry Brown, the political director for the International Association of Machinists District 751, said the union “will be evaluating, on a case by case basis, involvement in our collective bargaining by other elected officials as we move forward.”

Larsen has represented the 2nd Congressional District since 2001.

Comments | More in Congress, U.S. House of Representatives | Topics: Boeing Machinists, Rep. Rick Larsen


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