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Machinists chief says $140 million strike fund good for six months

Sept. 10, 2008, Seattle, WA - The Machinists union has a US$140-million strike fund and can sustain support for striking Boeing Co. production workers for five or six months.


September 10, 2008
By Tim Klass

Sept. 10, 2008, Seattle, WA – The Machinists union has a US$140-million strike fund
and can sustain support for striking Boeing Co. production workers
for five or six months, president Tom Buffenbarger said Tuesday.

Speaking from the convention of the International Association of
Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Orlando, Fla., Buffenbarger said
support for the strike has been unwavering among delegates, even
from local Machinists unions of airlines and other hard-hit sectors.

“This issue has united the convention,'' Buffenbarger said. The
gathering takes place every four years.

Similarly, Marc Blondin, chief negotiator in contract talks
covering 27,000 riveters, electricians, mechanics, painters and
other hourly workers, said the strikers are prepared and resolved to
stay out “as long as it takes'' – a mantra on picket lines – to get
an offer they're willing to accept.

On Sept. 3 union members voted 80 per cent to reject a three-year
package estimated by Boeing at $34,000 in average gains per worker – bonuses averaging $6,400, raises averaging 11 per cent, pension
increases and a three per cent cost-of-living boost. They voted by
87 per cent to strike.

The walkout began Saturday morning after a 48-hour contract
extension in which a federal mediator tried without success to break
the impasse.
 
Starting three weeks into the walkout, union members are entitled
to $150 a week in strike pay. Average pay at Boeing is more tha
seven times that amount, although about 5,000 of the most recently
hired employees get less than $32,000 a year.

“That fund gets replenished every month from union members who
are not on strike,'' although less will be coming in than going out,
Blondin said.

In the first impact on air travel, RyanAir announced that the
strike had resulted in a six-week delay in opening a new hub from
Edinburgh, Scotland, with service to 11 European destinations. The
opening has been pushed back to Nov. 5, when aircraft from its
existing fleet will be available, deputy chief executive Michael
Cawley said.

Also on Tuesday, Triumph Composite Systems Inc. announced plans
to lay off indefinitely at least 220 of the 550 workers at its
Spokane plant, which produces air control ducts and composite floors
for Boeing and other aircraft. Another 15 per cent to 20 per cent of
the workers face layoffs if the strike runs past Sept. 21, personnel
director Michael Schelstrate said.

Another former Boeing operation that now supplies parts for the
company, Spirit AeroSystems Inc. of Wichita, Kan., announced Monday
that weekly hours will be reduced for employees involved in making
certain products for Boeing.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS