Bill Johnson, the former union president who led Machinists Union District Lodge 751 from 1992 through 2000 has died at his home in Seattle after a fight with cancer. He was 69.
As president, Johnson established programs that are important parts of the union today, including the Work Transfer Committees that make the case against Boeing outsourcing proposals and the Machinists Volunteer Program that has built nearly 320 wheelchair ramps for Puget Sound families.
Johnson also made moves to make the union more inclusive, appointing the district’s first female and African-American business representatives.
Johnson led the union through the difficult 69-day strike of 1995, and successfully negotiated the 1999 contract, which allowed the union to contest Boeing outsourcing proposals and improved health and retirement benefits.
Johnson played a key role in keeping Boeing’s 737 program in Renton. After the 1997 merger of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas, managers of the newly merged company proposed moving a share of 737 final assembly work to the McDonnell Douglas plant in Long Beach, Calif.
Johnson responded with a campaign to put public pressure on Boeing. He also invited Phil Condit – Boeing’s CEO at the time – to a summit, where the company and union thrashed out a plan to keep 737 final assembly work in Renton.
Johnson established what is now called the Machinists Volunteer Program. Today, union “MVPs” are known for building wheelchair ramps, feeding the homeless at missions in Everett and Tacoma and supporting the Salvation Army, United Way, Northwest Harvest and Guide Dogs of America. The union has been honored three times by the White House for outstanding community service.
Johnson is survived by his wife, Diane; daughter, Christine Hinsee and grandsons, John Hinsee, Jr. and Jordan Hinsee of Seattle; sister Donna Habel of Seattle; a cousin, Bob Thompson, of Kingston; and other family members. He was preceded in death by a brother, Martin Johnson.
Johnson’s family is not planning a funeral. District 751 plans a memorial service at the Seattle Union Hall (9135 15th Pl. S.) on Saturday, March 23 at 2 p.m.