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The Seattle Sketcher

An illustrated journal of life in the Puget Sound region by Times artist Gabriel Campanario.

November 13, 2013 at 6:21 PM

Boeing machinists cast vote ‘for the middle class’

Nov. 14 UPDATE: Machinists voted a resounding no to Boeing’s contract offer.

Sketched Nov. 13, 2013

This morning I took my sketchpad to the aerospace worker’s union hall in Everett, where thousands of Boeing machinists stood in line throughout the day to vote on a company contract. For the most part, the atmosphere was pretty somber, which is understandable when you consider what’s at stake. Boeing is threatening to build the 777X airliner somewhere else if the union doesn’t approve the contract. That could mean the region would lose more than 50,000 jobs in the next few years. (Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates has all the details on that.)

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Still, a few machinists had not lost their sense of humor. James White, a 17-year Boeing employee who works on the 777, was dressed as Captain America. “Sometimes someone has to stand up and lead the charge,” he said. Nearby, another machinist held a cardboard sign with a picture of Yoda and this slogan: “Vote No You Must.”

According to some machinists I talked to, the union, which has more than 30,000 members, is split about 60-40, with the majority rejecting the contract because it will cut benefits they have fought very hard to get over the years. Of the more than twenty machinists I talked to, only two said they voted to approve the contract and they did not wish to be identified.

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For many, the issue means more than just working at Boeing. The contract represents “another nail in the coffin for middle class America,” said Mark Braun, a 27-year Boeing veteran encouraging others to vote against it.

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Union steward Chip Thom hopes the contract doesn’t pass, because that would lower the living-wage standards for all aviation industry workers. “We set the bar.”

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Jay Sevier, a 47-year-old Kansas City native, said he wants Boeing to succeed but voted to reject the contract. “We know the risk involved but we have to stand our ground.”

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This group of Boeing buddies includes Brian Duff, 53; Charles Kauffman, 51; Matt McEwen, 30; and Chelsea Kauffman, 20, who is Charles’ daughter. “If we let Boeing take our benefits away, other companies will follow,” said Duff.

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Amanda Ferrara, a 27-year-old mechanic, expressed her view with these words: “We need to fight for what we have. Keep the benefits going for the people coming after us — our children and grandchildren.”

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Robert Mahan expressed disappointment at the way the company presented the contract terms. “We didn’t have enough time to chew on this.” He wished there had been a little bit more give and take, more time for negotiation.

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Trent Thynes said he also voted to reject the contract. He said companies have a duty to take care of their employees and pay a living wage.

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Comments | More in Aviation | Topics: Everett


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