The Machinists union on Wednesday began a convoluted, monthlong election process featuring an unprecedented fight for national control of one of the most powerful labor groups in the country, representing 333,000 dues-paying members.

Local Boeing workers in the union’s 32,000-member District 751 may play a disproportionate role in the election, fired up by the controversy over how the national leadership of the union handled their recent deal with Boeing.

That contract, approved in January, secured the 777X for Washington state but froze the traditional pensions of local Machinists.

Many members are angry at IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger for going against the Puget Sound region leadership to make the deal happen.

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There has been no election for any national office in the IAM for more than 50 years because of the difficulty challengers face in getting on the ballot.

For the first time in the 125-year history of the union, there will be a contested election for IAM International president, with challenger Jay Cronk seeking to displace Buffenbarger.

Union members also will choose among candidates for the positions of general secretary-treasurer and eight general vice presidents.

Union locals around the country will vote on different days throughout April. A result is not expected until May. Including retirees, 570,000 people are eligible to vote. However at most locals, turnout for internal elections is typically low.

District 751 activists are pinning their hopes for an upset of the incumbents on a large turnout locally.

Members of the Boeing Local E unit vote Wednesday. The Local A unit, the largest local in the IAM, votes Thursday. The remaining two Boeing locals in the Puget Sound region vote April 9 and 10.

Local IAM members working for Alaska Airlines vote April 15.

Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963