Rep. Larsen loses backing of Machinists over Boeing offer
The Washington Machinists Council has revoked its endorsement of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen over the Everett Democrat’s support for a Boeing contract that ended the Machinists pension.
Seattle Times political reporter
Boeing Machinists still are steaming over the role some prominent Democrats played in pressing for a contract vote this month on a deal that ended the union’s pension.
On Monday, the Washington Machinists Council revoked its endorsement of U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, who is running for re-election this year.
The action is largely symbolic at this point since Larsen has no major opposition for his re-election campaign this year. But some labor leaders warn more payback could be in store.
Like many state political leaders, Larsen had urged Machinists to vote on Boeing’s controversial contract offer this month due to the economic benefits for the region — despite fierce opposition from local union leaders.
The deal, narrowly approved by the union, guarantees thousands of jobs as Boeing builds the new 777X in Everett.
But it extracted concessions from workers, replacing the Machinists’ pension with a 401(k)-style retirement plan.
Although the contract passed, some local Machinist leaders resent what they viewed as interference from political leaders — including Democrats such as Larsen who count on the union for re-election backing.
Paul Schubert, a Machinist shop steward who works in Everett, said Larsen betrayed union members who’d helped him win tough campaigns.
“Here we are, we campaign for this guy. We do doorbelling on Saturdays. We’ve given this guy our time, we’ve given him our money ... and he turned on us,” Schubert said.
Larsen responded to the Machinists’ action in a statement emailed by a spokesman Monday: “I understand their anger, accept and respect their decision, and still believe that Boeing will get a 777X built by the best aerospace workforce in the world, the Machinists of Puget Sound.”
Former Washington State Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt said he doesn’t think the rift will last, noting Larsen, like many Democrats have a generally pro-union voting record.
“This was a tumultuous issue here, but I have every confidence that over the course of the next year Rick will be reaching out to them,” he said.
Larsen, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District since 2001, has a lifetime 91 percent voting score card from the AFL-CIO.
In rescinding its endorsement, leadership of the Washington Machinists Council cited Larsen’s comments in a Dec. 13 news release in which he said the new Boeing contract was needed to control costs for the company.
“By pressing for a vote, Larsen helped Boeing strip away pensions and health-care benefits. While we don’t expect the congressman to side with us, Boeing doesn’t need Larsen’s help to drive down wages and benefits for working families,” Dan Morgan, president of the Washington Machinists Council, said in a statement Monday.
Larsen likely will not be the only Democratic politician to face wrath from Machinists and other labor activists.
Snohomish County Executive John Lovick also is running this year to retain his position. (He was appointed to the vacant post after the resignation of his scandal-plagued predecessor, Aaron Reardon.)
Lovick and other local politicians — all pension-holders themselves — held a news conference in Everett last month urging Machinists to accept Boeing’s contract.
Larry Brown, political director for the International Association of Machinists District 751, said the union will be looking at its stance toward other politicians “on a case-by-case basis.”
Jeff Johnson, president of the Washington State Labor Council, noted unions already have made their displeasure known to Gov. Jay Inslee, who like Larsen called for a vote on the contract. Labor leaders called on Inslee to apologize and publicly canceled plans to attend a holiday party at the governor’s mansion.
Johnson said he can’t predict what further actions unions will take, but called the political pressure from certain leaders on the Boeing deal “inexcusable.”
“We’re looking at every politician’s role,” Johnson said. “This conversation is deadly serious throughout the labor movement.”
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner