Machinists union members hit the picket lines yesterday with a mixture of moods: elation at the unity shown by Thursday night's 86 percent...
Machinists union members hit the picket lines yesterday with a mixture of moods: elation at the unity shown by Thursday night’s 86 percent strike vote, dissatisfaction with Boeing’s contract offer and resignation at the financial pinch of going out on strike.
In Renton, some strikers yesterday set up a mobile “solidarity house” outside the union hall, using toolmaker Victor Latta’s 1994 “Minnie Winnie” motor home. Off-duty pickets sat on lawn chairs and coolers stocked with Bud, though they insisted they came for the solidarity, not the beer.
The 55-year-old Latta, on his third strike in 30 years with Boeing, has learned to plan for such things. The union’s $150 weekly strike stipend kicks in later this month, but that’s only about what it takes to fill the tank in the Winnie, so its stint as a solidarity house may be short-lived.
“I’m selling it,” Latta said. “I can’t afford to keep it.”
Ernest Martin, 50, also knows the drill after two previous strikes during 25 years at Boeing. The Renton facilities plumber said he’s set aside enough money to pay his bills for about three months.
“In about two weeks, I’ll have to go out and get work, probably plumb a few houses, to keep my lifestyle the way I like it,” he said.
Richard Bailey has had Boeing employees in his family since 1921. Yesterday, instead of heading to work at the Everett plant, he picked up picket signs and has been standing just inches from company property on strike.
Boeing’s complete best-and-final offer
(downloadable .pdf file)
Machinists negotiations page:
Boeing’s negotiations page:www.boeing.com/special/negotiations/
“My whole family worked here for years, and I won’t have that chance if the company gets away with what they want,” the 41-year-old Marysville resident said.
Bailey was laid off in 2001 as a painter and was recalled this January to take a lower-paying job as a janitor. His father, who was laid off from the company in 1972, gave him some advice.
“He said, ‘Stick with it. It’s worth it,’ ” Bailey said. “Every union in the United States is watching this.”
As picketing began in earnest yesterday morning at the Boeing Everett plant, security guards stopped at the newly painted green line marking company property to bring the strikers doughnuts. Members of the main union at Boeing, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), also dropped off coffee and breakfast.
No further talks were scheduled between the union and the company as of yesterday evening.
Some other unions were honoring Machinists picket lines yesterday. Between 15 and 20 members of Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 32 had been scheduled to work on a construction project at Boeing’s Longacres headquarters in Renton but didn’t cross the Machinists line.
SPEEA is barred by its contract from honoring the Machinists picket line. The engineers’ union yesterday issued a statement telling members they should not be performing work usually done by Machinists.
Renton worker Mary Vargas, a wing line sealer, said the bonuses included in Boeing’s contract proposal were “nice, but it’s not something we asked for,” said Vargas, 49, who is more concerned about job security and retirement benefits.
“Instead, they offered us a bunch of carrots, basically bribes. Out in the community, it makes us look like a bunch of spoiled brats, and it’s not like that. We’re just looking out for our future.”
Hired by Boeing in 1996, she was laid off in March 2002, and rehired last November. Vargas still has bills from the 2-½ years she was laid off, but she said she’s willing to strike for a better deal.
Citing the compensation package provided to new Boeing Chief Executive James McNerney, she said the company can afford a better contract for the Machinists.
“He got $22 million. If they didn’t have the money, they wouldn’t do that. I just want what’s right,” she said.
Stephanni Hoza, who leads a team responsible for building plane interiors, said that with three children, medical benefits were a huge factor in her decision to strike.
“We were surprised at their low-ball offer. We were willing to help when times were sour,” she said. “But when times are good, we expect to be rewarded.”
Hoza brought her 11-year-old daughter, Cheyenne, to picket, holding a sign that reads: “My mom needs temporary work.”
“I need a job,” she said, laughing. “I can do graphics, project management and catering.”
At 51, Richard Goff, a toolmaker, said he was concerned about his pension.
“People think we want more money. That’s not the issue. The issue is medical and retirement,” Goff said. “No one wants a bonus or a pay raise. We want our retirement and medical.”
The Marysville resident was laid off three years ago after 22 years with the company. He was brought back this April and was on duty when the strike vote was announced yesterday.
Everyone cheered when it was announced, he said, adding that he’s not scared to be on strike.
“I survived one year without bringing in any money on my savings and my wife’s budgeting,” he said.
Seattle Times staff reporters Melissa Allison, Lisa Chiu, Brian Alexander, Tom Boyer and Shirleen Holt contributed to this report.
rewarded for roles
Boeing handed out a total of $2 million in stock rewards to its interim chief executive and chairman for their services during a period of management turnover earlier this year.
Boeing gave Chief Financial Officer James Bell 22,433 restricted stock units worth $1.5 million to reward his service as interim president and chief executive officer from March 5 through June 30, the company said in a regulatory filing yesterday.
Lewis Platt, an independent director who served as interim nonexecutive chairman, received 7,398 shares worth about $500,000 based on the Aug. 29 closing price.
Bell replaced Harry Stonecipher as interim CEO when Stonecipher was ousted over an affair with another Boeing executive. Platt filled in as nonexecutive chairman. Bell, who kept his chief financial officer’s role throughout, was replaced by James McNerney as CEO in July.
“This illustrates why workers are insulted by their take-away contract,” said Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for the Machinists union, which yesterday went on strike for the first time in 10 years. “Our members generated that profit he’s being rewarded for.”
Bell’s restricted stock units will vest over a five-year period, if he stays with the company, Boeing said in the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He can convert half the award in three years and the rest at the end of the five-year period, Boeing said.
Platt, who remains Boeing’s lead director, received his shares as compensation for taking on greater responsibilities after Stonecipher left the company. The shares he received, which vested on the effective date of the Aug. 29 grant, would be worth $475,987 at yesterday’s closing price.
Boeing shares fell $1.65, or 2.5 percent, to $64.34 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading yesterday. The shares have climbed 24 percent this year.