Boeing won’t bully us

December 18, 2013

The bosses at aerospace giant Boeing are playing hardball, threatening to move production on the new 777X airplane from the company's flagship Everett, Wash., plant if union members don't agree to a proposed eight-year contract extension that includes significant concessions on a number of fronts. But members of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 751 are standing strong. In November, they voted by a two-thirds margin to reject Boeing's proposal, despite support for the deal from union officials.

Shannon Ryker is a machinist at Boeing and member of IAM District 751. Here, we reprint a letter she wrote for her union support blog Rosie's Machinists 751.

To all labor unions and their members:

I AM a member of the IAM District 751 and employed at the Boeing Company. As many of you may know, last month, Boeing leadership issued a contract ultimatum and threatened to take the new 777X program out of state along with 8,000 jobs if we did not vote yes on the contract.

In response, 67 percent of our membership voted NO!

In the midst of confusion, fear and uncertainty, we stood as one united in solidarity. Our message was clear: We said no! No, we will not tolerate ultimatums. No, we will not stand by and be bullied. No, we will not sell out our parents, children or fellow IAM brothers and sisters past, present or future.

Boeing leadership's weapons are the media, e-mail, printed handouts and videos. They bombard us with their heavy artillery in the days prior to the vote. We are sent e-mails and handouts telling why their proposal is so great. We watch mandatory videos. They talk to the media and local government.

The message is always the same. Vote "yes," or we will leave, and it will be your fault. Local headlines make it clear--"Boeing Exec Urges Machinists to Vote Yes" or "Landing the 777X Dependent on Machinist Vote."

Members of IAM District 751 march in solidarity with grocery workers
Members of IAM District 751 march in solidarity with grocery workers (IAM District 751)

Now the seed has been planted. The local government, media and citizens are watered. When we vote no, they lash out, telling us we are greedy, selfish, whiners. They holler, "It's all your fault Boeing might leave!" and "Way to go, Machinists. You just cost us thousands of jobs."

It's hard for them to see and hear our side; most of them have never walked in our shoes. All they hear is the deafening sound of our opponents. But we stand strong regardless. We know why we voted no.

Most of them think it's all about money, but we are here to tell you that it is so much more complex than that. Many of us are second- and third-generation employees. A lot of us grew up in Boeing homes. Strong values were instilled within us at early ages--values such as integrity, loyalty and solidarity.

Those who think this was all about money are blind t the consequences of saying yes. A yes vote would have permanently weakened the collective bargaining process and power, not only for IAM members, but for SPEEA [Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace], and possibly every union in the region, sending the message to Boeing and other employers that it is acceptable to toss ultimatums at employees whenever they please with the expectation of "yes."

Voting "yes" damages the solidarity of our union, it cripples our unity, and it divides us. Collective bargaining happens when two parties work together. Boeing telling us to take it or leave it, without allowing us to respond with counter-offers. They leave us no choice but to say NO.

Headlines read, "Boeing and Union Reach Agreement." How can Boeing and the union be in mutual agreement when IAM membership is left out of the process? It seems to me that our union officials need to start communicating with the rank-and-file members so that Boeing and IAM membership (the true heart of the union) can reach a mutual agreement.

LAST WEEK, our union re-entered negotiations with the Boeing Company. Their counter-proposal offered minimal changes and was basically the same proposal. Our local union leaders declined the offer for those reasons, but our local government is attempting to interfere and force us to vote.

Boeing continues to mislead the media and the public, and as a result, the machinists are made to look like the guilty, greedy party. This couldn't be further from the truth.

If Boeing can do this to us, your employers can do it to you. Don't let Boeing set the example for the future of collective bargaining. I promise you, employers are watching, listening and learning. Let's send all employers the message that we will not be threatened, bullied or pushed into contract ultimatums.

Our contract is not due to expire for three more years yet. Boeing is trying to force our hand because they have leverage now. We cannot let this become the standard for collective bargaining.

We need you. We need your support. Please show us your support by sending letters to our local government asking them to support the collective bargaining process by not urging us to vote when our local union leadership has worked hard to fight for our best interests.

Please show our members you care and you believe in our fight for the middle class by stopping by our union support Facebook page to show your support!

Further Reading

From the archives