Machinists Cheer, Jeer on Picket Lines, Boeing Considers Options
SEATTLE (AP) _ Picketing Machinists expressed determination to hold out for a richer offer from the Boeing Co. while the aerospace giant worked to keep assembly lines open and said there were no plans to resume contract talks.
″We are setting about the business at hand ... to start working on those aircraft that are far enough down the line that our supervisory people can complete them so those airplanes can be delivered,″ company spokesman Paul Binder said late Wednesday.
The Machinists union, Boeing’s largest representing 57,800 workers around the country, struck early Wednesday after members overwhelmingly rejected a three-year offer that included their first wage increase in six years.
The strike hits Boeing in its fifth consecutive year of record jetliner orders. So far this year, Boeing has had orders for 736 commercial jets worth $38.5 billion, boosting its order backlog to more than $70 billion.
The orders have pressured the company to maintain delivery schedules, and the heavy overtime required of workers has become a major issue in the strike.
″When my kids found out about the strike, they said, ’Oh boy, we get to see Daddy,″ said Bob Junka, who was on a picket line at a plant in Renton, south of Seattle.
Federal mediator Douglas Hammond said he was trying to get both sides to resume talks soon because of the large number of workers and the potential for economic havoc with a long strike. Boeing is the state’s largest private employer and the nation’s leading exporter.
Tom Baker, president of Machinists District Lodge 751, which covers 43,300 Boeing workers in the Puget Sound area, said a phone call was all that was needed to get the union back to the bargaining table.
But Boeing’s Binder said deciding when talks might resume ″is part of the process of evaluating where we are. There aren’t any meetings scheduled.″
Members of other Boeing unions reported to work as usual Wednesday, but some unionized workers for a subcontractor stayed away from a plant in the Seattle area after unexpectedly finding pickets at the gate.
In Wichita, Kan., where 12,000 Machinists are on strike, Boeing secured a judge’s order to limit the number of pickets at plant gates and prohibit pickets from speaking in an abusive or intimidating manner to people trying to report for work.
The order was granted after pickets stopped each vehicle headed toward the plant and attempted to convince the occupants to honor strike lines. Traffic delays of three hours or more were reported.
Two motorists were detained for questioning by Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputies after allegedly bumping people with their cars. No one was seriously injured.
In the Washington, Baker went from plant to plant in the Puget Sound area and talked with pickets.
″Everybody’s spirits are high,″ the union leader said. ″I just tell them to keep dug in.″
″That’s what we like to see, (he’s) right out here with us,″ striker Blake LaLonde said of Baker.
Lalonde, 23, and his fellow pickets cheered with each honk of support from passing motorists.
Boeing offered a salary hike totaling 10 percent over three years, plus bonus pay, but Machinists said they want more money and were upset at having to work mandatory overtime. The proposal would have cut mandatory overtime to 160 hours a quarter from 200 hours.
″Most people we talked to were basically insulted by the contract,″ said picket Bryce Bushby, who spoke outside Boeing’s south Seattle headquarters. Boeing machinists haven’t gotten a raise in six years, but received yearly bonuses.
Pickets marched in 45-degree weather outside the plant, waving signs as motorists and truck drivers honked horns.
In addition to those in the Seattle and Wichita areas, 1,700 Machinists in Portland, Ore., and smaller numbers in a half-dozen other locations are on strike.
Worldwide, Boeing employs 164,000 people, including 106,000 in western Washington.
Binder said he didn’t know how many airplanes were far enough along that they could be completed by supervisory personnel.
Before Boeing can deliver any airplanes completed during the strike, the Federal Aviation Administration will require the company to demonstrate its compliance with an FAA-approved quality control program, KIRO-TV reported.
The FAA said it would increase on-site production surveillance at Boeing plants during the strike.