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It’s a ‘family affair’ at Boeing Frederickson plant

Post by News Tribune Staff on Sep. 6, 2008 at 5:17 pm with No Comments »
September 6, 2008 5:17 pm

From TNT reporter Mike Archbold:

The burn barrel outside the front gate of Boeing’s plant in Fredrickson was still smoldering Saturday afternoon as striking machinists waved picket signs at motorists passing by on Canyon Road.

"Fight for your rights," yelled one man as he drove by.

Horns blared almost constantly, making conversation difficult. Another motorist pulled over and handed the strikers a bag of ice cream bars.

The nearby Caveman Coffee along with KISW Radio was supplying the picketers with coffee.

The mood was upbeat among the more than 20 machinists, some with their wives and children, who stood in the warm sun stood in the sun and smiled at their supporters.

It was only Day 1 and no one knew how long they would be out of work.

"I guess it’s all up to the company," said Ken Ruether, 47, of Eatonville who has worked for Boeing for 23 years, 16 of them at Frederickson. "We’re hoping on the warmest September on record.

"We’re optimistic. We have every reason to believe the company will do the right thing."

Ruether was nearing the end of his first eight-hour shift as Picket Captain. Many of the picketers were there not because they were assigned by the union. They simply showed up.

Looking around, he said: "It’s more like a family gathering." John Drasher, 62, of Puyallup, works at the company’s Delivery Center at Boeing Field in Seattle. After 22 years with the company, he is getting ready to retire.

"I have to do (strike) for the people who come up behind me," he said, adding that this was his fourth strike against the company dating back to the first one in 1989.

He said the last two contracts had no wage increases and now when the company is making money they want to raise medical insurance deductibles and take away survivor benefits for spouses.

What bothers Greg Gillispie, 56, of Graham, is "what the company is taking away."

Wages aren’t as big as issue, he said, as raised medical insurance deductibles and low wages for many new hires.

Tom Lomas, 48, of Graham, said the contract should no take-aways at all, not with the money the company is making.

The 19-year veteran said he is ready for a long strike if needed. "I’ve got at least four months in the kitty I’ve saved," he said.

Job security was important to Mike Wells, 60, who works at Frederickson and is retiring in January after 30 years with the company. He said outsourcing of jobs means less jobs for union members. The current contract includes language that the company must check with the union to see if they can handle a job before it is sent elsewhere.

"That language is gone," he said.

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