The January 3 vote over a proposed contract extension held at the District 751 Lodge of Boeing’s (NYSE:BA) largest machinist union in Washington state divided the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. After an initial eight-year contract extension was voted down by a large majority of local union members last November, the company reworked the offer to address some of the union’s grievances — backing away from its attempts to slow the pay scale rate of machinists — and last Friday, by a narrow margin of 600 ballets, the revised contract was accepted. Had the story ended there, that vote would have ensured that production of key components for the redesigned 777X would have remained in Washington state, the jet manufacturer’s traditional manufacturing base. But the story is not over; eight unfair labor practices charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board by angry Boeing machinists.
These complaints allege that the union’s top leaders manipulated the January 3 vote, as Reuters reported Wednesday. The Boeing machinists who filed charges against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers demand that the ballots be recast, and the NLRB has launched an investigation, as Anne Pomerantz, an attorney with the NLRB regional office in Seattle, told the publication. The labor board will interview both sides to determine if there is any evidence to support the claim that union leaders did not provide fair representation, she added. If proof that international leaders acted in a discriminatory or arbitrary manner is found, the NLRB General Counsel could file a complaint.
According to Jeffrey Hirsch, a former NLRB lawyer, the complaints must show not that the election could have been handled better, but that the actions of the international leaders were arbitrary or made in bad faith. “A lower turnout doesn’t necessarily mean people were disenfranchised,” Hirsch told the publication.