The recent contract concessions at Boeing Co. have motivated a Portland-area Machinists Union member to run for office in upcoming international union elections. Pat Maloney — a 15-year employee at Boeing’s Gresham aircraft parts plant — is seeking nominations for general vice president of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), and is part of a slate that’s challenging the incumbent national leadership.
IAM held elections in January 2013 for its top officers. But after complaints about election practices, the union is re-doing the election this year under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). A DOL investigation found that the election rules outlined in the IAM constitution violate a federal law governing union elections. Specifically, the DOL found that IAM didn’t notify members about nominations, and members didn’t have a reasonable opportunity to nominate candidates because some were working during nomination meetings.
The elections complaint was filed by one of the 2013 candidates for general vice president, longtime United Airlines worker Karen Asuncion. In the do-over election, Asuncion is running as part of a slate headed by one time railroad worker and longtime IAM staffer Jay Cronk. Cronk worked for the international as coordinator of IAM’s Transportation Division. He is challenging incumbent international president R. Thomas Buffenbarger in the re-run election. Maloney, the Gresham Boeing plant worker, joined Cronk’s slate Jan. 12.
Maloney has been a union activist since 1995, when he supported a union campaign at Precision Castparts. The company fired him in 1997 on trumped-up accusations, and later paid $100,000 to settle his National Labor Relations Board case. Maloney went to work at Boeing in 1998 as a flight control component tester, became active in the Machinists union, and has served a number of offices in Local Lodge 63.
[pullquote]We should never accept concessionary agreements when the economy is good.” — Boeing worker and challenge slate candidate Pat Maloney[/pullquote]Cronk’s slate includes another member from Boeing — Jason Redrup, a union business representative in Puget Sound’s District 751.
Cronk and his slate outline their campaign platform at iamreform.org.
The campaign platform doesn’t specifically mention the Boeing contract, but Cronk says it was “very badly mishandled.”
“They got themselves involved absent any input from the local leadership, and made commitments to Boeing they couldn’t deliver,” Cronk said. “I wouldn’t have brought that offer to members.”
In November, members voted by a 2-to-1 margin to reject a Boeing proposal for an eight-year extension of their current contract, which expires 2016. But Buffenbarger insisted, over local union objections, that a slightly improved Boeing offer get a vote. The revised deal was approved Jan. 3 by 51 percent of Boeing workers, voting at the end of a holiday break. Under its terms, Boeing commits to build a next-generation aircraft in the Puget Sound in return for workers accepting raises of just 1 percent every other year, increased out-of-pocket medical costs, and an end to their pension in 2016, to be replaced with a 401(k) retirement savings account that would receive much less generous funding. The contract runs through 2024.
Maloney said he was already concerned about leadership decisions, but the Boeing contract in particular made him decide to run.
“Commercial air manufacturing and use is in a boom time right now,” Maloney said. “We should never accept concessionary agreements when the economy is good.”
Maloney said the new Boeing contract “radically severs the whole solidarity process,” and destroys trust between members and the leadership.
How the wote will take place
Even under DOL supervision, IAM’s system for electing international officers is quite complex. It starts Saturday, Jan. 25, when each “local lodge” will hold special meetings for members to nominate candidates for endorsement by that local lodge. Meetings will be at 6-8 a.m. and 6-8 p.m. so members working every shift can attend. Nominations will be taken for all of the top international offices: international president, general secretary-treasurer and the eight U.S. general vice presidents. [IAM’s Canadian members elect their own general vice president, and eight U.S. general vice presidents are elected at large — and then are assigned to territories or divisions by the international president. In cases where offices receive the same number of nominations as seats available, those nominees are considered to be endorsed by the local lodge. But where more candidates are nominated than positions available, the local lodge then holds “runoff” election meetings Feb. 8 to determine which nominees get the endorsement. All candidates for international office who receive the endorsement of more than 25 local lodges then qualify for the national ballot. The final vote will take places at the first regularly scheduled meeting of each local lodge in April.
IAM has over 800 local lodges. At larger lodges, DOL agents will be present to observe the process.