Contractors at NAS Whidbey Vote to Join IAM

More than 200 civilian workers at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington state voted recently to join the Machinists Union.

The workers are employed by defense contractor URS to perform maintenance on U.S. Navy EA-6B Prowlers and EA-18G Growlerelectronic warfare jets. The 82 percent vote capped a year-long effort to form a union for the workers, who first contacted the IAM in early 2010. The workers sought a union to help them bring their pay in line with what other workers in Western Washington are paid for doing similar work.

The URS workers also wanted a written agreement to cover work they do when assigned to remote locations – so-called TDY assignments – and also a fair process for filling job openings, promotions and downgrades.

The workers will join District 751 in Seattle, WA, which is developing a track record of negotiating better wages and benefits for civilian employees at military bases across Washington under the Service Contract Act, the federal law that governs union contracts for defense contractors.

In December, for example, IAM members working as flight line mechanics for L-3 Communications at Joint Base Lewis-McChord ratified a four-year contract that granted them raises of $2.10 an hour in the first year of the deal. And in April, Machinists working as pilot instructors and flight simulator technicians for Flight Safety Services at Fairchild Air Force Base unanimously approved a three-year contract that increased their wages a minimum of 6.7 percent in the first year.