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Experts Say Union Vote Over Boeing Shows Labor’s Influence Dropping

Labor Union
(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Governor Jay Inslee, Boeing, and economic-development leaders are applauding the machinist union’s re-vote on a new Boeing contract. But some labor activists say it’s a loss of local power.

The Boeing machinist’s union closely approved a contract to allow the Boeing 777x project to remain the Seattle-Everett area, defying local union leadership.

The Washington Post reported Monday the workers bowed to pressure from national union leaders, and defied their local union bosses who successfully persuaded them to reject the contract initially. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers approved the contract extension by a 51 percent margin after the same workers overwhelmingly rejected (67 percent) the same plan in November.

Union and labor experts say the vote is a “serious blow” to local union influence, and is another example of how a wave of union concessions are sweeping the country. Experts say unions are being forced to back down from some demands, and even strong unions face similar situations.

A Washington labor activist blames Boeing. According to The Post:

Lynne Dodson, with the Washington State Labor Council, the largest labor group in the state with 450,000 members, didn’t see Friday’s vote as an indication of declining union influence. ‘It’s an indication of just how far Boeing will go,’she said. ‘It’s more a reflection of corporate greed than of union power.’

Experts say Boeing was successful in proving to the unions on a national scale they were serious about getting demands met in the negotiations to the point of threatening to take projects to non-union states such as South Carolina. And it worked, say some local Seattle machinist union officials. Many believe the stakes were so high with the Boeing project (as many as 10,000 jobs could have been lost) the unions decided to compromise.


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