August 2012

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With 48 more hours to negotiate, machinists vent frustration over strike vote

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kight.jpgSEATTLE -- At Flights Pub in Everett, a local bar in the parking lot of a shopping center not far from the Boeing's widebody final assembly line, Machinists could be heard spontaneously chanting "Strike!" venting their frustration over the events of the evening.

It had been just over three hours since the IAM leadership and Boeing agreed to a 48-hour extension in negotiations to identify and resolve what vice president for Human Resources and chief Boeing negotiator Doug Kight called the "critical few details" remaining in the contract.

Though as one veteran business reporter asked of Kight at Boeing's 10:45 PM press conference that, "it sound to me like there are probably as many issue as there are union members. What if they come to you with a list a mile long with issues?"

Kight responded:

"At this stage in the process, we've been talking for months and months, hours and hours and hours on all aspects of the contract, all subjects. When you get to this stage in the process you have to narrow the issues. It'll be very, very challenging to make progress if this doesn't occur."
lodge.jpgThough, the frustration by union members was not limited to management. The reaction at the IAM lodge meeting halls near Boeing Field captured the sentiment of the membership.

The announcement of Boeing's desire to return immediately to the table was met with jubilant cheers, but moments later, the mood turned sour when IAM chief negotiator Mark Blondin informed his membership of the 48-hour extension in negotiations, even with 87% supporting a strike.

"They have 48 hours to bring a deal that's acceptable to you, or it's on," said Blondin.

The announcement was met with very visible displeasure, including comments not suitable for print.

Many machinists were frustrated by what they felt was the IAM not supporting their overwhelming vote to reject Boeing's best and final offer and go on strike.

"We stood in solidarity with them, they didn't stand with us," remarked one Everett-based machinist at Flights Pub.

Amid the frustrations of assembled machinists, Bondin attempted to get a word in edgewise over the loud protests of the machinists:

"We have told you all along that it is our job as negotiators to go to the table and negotiate you a contract that is acceptable to you, not to negotiate a strike."

The following morning, there are indications across many Boeing factories that even without the formal commencement of a strike, jetliner assembly has ground almost to a complete halt. One machinist tells FlightBlogger that "droves" of staff at Renton, site of 737 final assembly, were sent home for inactivity and, "a lot of people didn't go in at all."

Even with the 48-hour extension, many machinists were defiant in the face of both the IAM membership and Boeing.

"I'm on strike," remarked another machinist. "My contract expired yesterday at midnight."

Photo credits: FlightBlogger

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