Nader: Boeing pressure on union 'unseemly'

SEATTLE - Consumer activist and failed presidential candidate Ralph Nader has some words for Boeing.

In an open letter to Boeing CEO Jim McNerney on Thursday, Nader said the company's effort to squeeze worker pensions and pay is "unseemly." He cited McNerney's salary as one reason and the tax advantages the company is receiving as another.

Boeing is seeking a new contract with Machinists in the Puget Sound area that would move workers away from traditional pension plans.

Machinists rejected an initial contract offer last month, but national leaders in the union are scheduling a Jan. 3 vote on a revised contract offer.

However, not all Machinists are happy with the timing of the vote. Three union members have filed complaints with the National Labor Relations Board -- including one on Thursday -- that allege there will still be too many workers away on vacation then. The union says it is setting up an absentee ballot system to deal with that issue.

But NLRB spokesman Ronald Hooks said the complaint filed Thursday had some additional allegations.

"It also alleges that the union did not negotiate with Boeing. And it also alleges that the union provided false information to the members," Hooks said.

Yet Hooks says a full investigation will not be completed before the vote.

"It's understandable why tensions are running so high," Hooks said.

The tensions reflect the importance of this vote not just for Boeing workers, but their families, suppliers and the regional economy. Boeing has vowed to build the company's new 777X airplane in the Puget Sound if the Machinists agree to the new contract.