KENT — Management at Hytek Finishes has rejected an offer from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to help resolve increasingly contentious contract talks with the Machinists Union.
The union’s chief negotiator said he was surprised and disappointed.
"The IAM has continued to listen to Hytek concerns, no matter how far-fetched they are," said Kevin Cummings, a representative of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers who leads the union’s bargaining team.
"We have made multiple efforts to propose options to address their issues," he said. "They have refused to offer the same level of professionalism and courtesy."
Despite that, Cummings said the union remains "open to anything that might lead to an agreement that both sides can live with."
Cummings said that the federal Mediation Service has assigned an officer to follow the talks between management at Hytek, a subsidiary of Bellevue-based Esterline Corp., and the union as they try to reach a first contract.
Negotiations have been underway since October. Hourly workers at Hytek – there are now roughly 175 of them – voted 2-to-1 in August to join Machinists Union District Lodge 751.
Cummings said talks started well, but bogged down after the first of the year. In February, the Machinists Union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing managers at the Esterline subsidiary of deliberately violating the rights of union members under federal labor law.
From the beginning, the IAM has kept the Mediation Service up-to-date on the progress in negotiations, Cummings said. The mediation service’s officer contacted the two sides in early March to see if anything could be done to move the talks forward.
Cummings said the IAM welcomed the offer in hopes of moving discussions forward. "The company has rejected all our proposals and is dragging its feet about coming back with realistic counterproposals," he said. "Why not bring in a mediator to help the process?"
But Esterline’s management refused the offer and dismissed the mediation process.
That decision is "sad and only provides further evidence for our NLRB charges that they are stalling and doing everything to avoid legitimate negotiation," Cummings said. "If ever there was a negotiating process that could use third-party intervention, this is it."
The Machinists at Hytek do metal finishing and metal plating on aerospace parts. Boeing, Lockheed and Bell Helicopters are major customers, and Hytek is an important supplier for the Pentagon’s Joint Strike Fighter.
The workers have asked for improvements in three major areas: safety, pay and benefits.
Roughly 200 Machinists Union volunteers from Boeing and other employers mounted an informational picket outside the Hytek plant on March 21, as a show of support for their fellow union members.
The Machinists at Hytek have been assigned to Machinists Union Local Lodge 751-C, and Local 751-C President Ron Coen was among the volunteers who took part.
“We wanted to show our Hytek brothers and sisters that we’ve got their backs,” Coen said. “We’ve been down this road before, and if they stay strong and stay together, we can help them through it.”
Originally formed in 1935 to represent hourly workers at Boeing, District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers now represents more than 31,000 working men and women across Washington, Oregon and California. In December, District 751 members ratified a four-year contract extension with Boeing that ensured the 737 MAX will be built in Puget Sound.
For more information about District 751, read the Machinists News.