Is this a fair vote? (long)

Today the labor union that I am a member of voted on a new 3 year labor agreement with my employer, Boeing. During the negotiation process the past few months, both sides kept us up to date and reports from both were very positive. The past 2 weeks though have been the total opposite. According to the union, now the company wants to screw and tattoo us on every issue being negotiated. The union wants huge increases in the pension, improvements in our already basically free to us health care and specific job security provisions. The company has offered a 10% pension increase, wants to pass along some health care costs and will not discuss job security as they always have. The company has offered a bonus that could be worth over $12,500 the next 3 years, a pay increase, and has improved some things such as vision and dental care. The union rejected the offer and is pushing us to strike.

The union has resorted to what I call dirty politics the past few weeks, encouraging noise making at work (100 or so rivet guns beating on metal at the same time is absolutely deafening), personal attacks on the company leadership, past and present, and I have witnessed attempted coersion of those that oppose the union position. This of course has most of the rank and file members all charged up and all everyone talks about is going out on strike. I have been through 2 previous strikes with this company in 1989 and 1995. In both cases we accepted the same basic contract turned down during the first vote, 48 and 69 days later. The company on the other hand has maintained a relatively quiet stance, just saying that the offer presented is fair and it still the standard for those that work in the commercial airplane and aerospace industry.

I have been very critical of the union because of these tactics. I realize that politics in general have become nasty and downright dirty lately but the crap us usually tossed on both directions. I have had a couple of confrontations this week and I have not backed down. One question I have been asking the union stewards and business reps this week has gone unanswered, one business rep called me an idiot for asking it. The question I asked was, the last 2 strikes against this company did not result in any improvements in the contract offers we ultimately accepted, what is the union doing to insure this doesn’t happen this time? I think it is a fair question.

This afternoon when I went to vote on the contract proposal, there were a couple dozen folks encouraging those entering to vote to turn down the contract. There were signs and banners on the doors and walls saying to reject the contract. As the resident of a county and state that has been beaten to a pulp in recent years for voter fraud and screw ups, it just strikes me as wrong that the union can attempt to influence the vote right up to the issuing of the ballots. In my opinion, this was not a fair vote. I really can’t afford to go out on strike right now, finances are tight and my wife has some health issues. She has an appointment with an oncologist next week and if necessary, he has already set up chemo treatments to begin on the 13th of this month. I don’t want to cross the picket line but when my health insurance goes away on October 1, I will cross. So right now I am waiting to hear the results of the vote and keeping my fingers crossed it is accepted. I hate having to go through this crap every 3 years.

As long as both sides were allowed to campaign, and it was within the rules (and the rules themselves are fair to all sides), then I see nothing wrong with trying to persuade people to vote up until the last minute.

I hope things work out for you. I hate the idea of crossing a picket line but given your situation I can’t blame you if you do.

The results were just announced, 82% rejected the contract. It seems ironic the union is pushing for better retirement benefits yet many of us are going to use our 401K retirement fund to live on during the strike.

Without getting into the details of the contract - coercion and promoting personal attacks against company leadership are illegal. My father was (and still is) the primary labor negotiator for his company, and from his experience I know it’s not nice getting your tires slashed and your car vandalized because negotiations aren’t going well. I would encourage you to document such actions you see and report them to the NLRB and/or your state’s labor department.

I’m hoping your national union isn’t using your negotiation to try and set precendent for other future negotiations elsewhere - I understand the tactic, but it always ends up screwing the guys whose contract gets negotiated first.

Anyhow - you have my sympathy. Hopefully everything gets worked out before you’d need to cross any picket lines.