Policy: Labor

Boeing Seattle union chief retires after contract showdown

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,Boeing,Seattle

Tom Wroblewski, president of the Seattle machinists union that engaged in a bitter contract fight with aerospace manufacturer Boeing in recent months, has announced his retirement. The announcement adds a post script to a high stakes drama that had his union local not only fighting with management but with its own national leadership.

Wroblewski, president of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751, made the announcement Wednesday, citing health reasons. According to the Seattle Times, he has been hospitalized twice since Dec. 27 for ulcers.

District 751 had been in turmoil since Nov. 13, when its 32,000 members voted down by a 2-1 margin a proposed contract that would have given them modest raises and a $10,000-per-person bonus but would also have transitioned them from a defined-benefit pension plan to a 401(k)-style one. Members cited the pension changes as the reason for the rejection.

The vote was awkward for Wroblewski, who had helped negotiate the contract. He subsequently distanced himself from it, staying he hadn't supported it. After the vote, Boeing threatened to move production of its new 777X airplane out of the state. Further contract talks were held but Wroblewski declined to allow a vote the following month, saying the new contract wasn't substantially different from the one members rejected in November.

Part of the reason for the refusal was Boeing's demand that he not only allow a vote but endorse the contract and lobby District 751 members on it.

In late December, IAM President Tom Buffenbarger overruled Wroblewski, forcing a vote and warning members that Boeing was not bluffing with its threat. A bare majority backed the contract.

Is it any wonder the guy got an ulcer? The Times reported:

The experience "changed my perspective on work-life balance," Wroblewski told a routine meeting of the union’s District Council Tuesday night. "Your job should not destroy your health." Because of that, he said, "I am stepping down from a job I have loved for more than 20 years."

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