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Originally published January 21, 2014 at 5:57 PM | Page modified January 22, 2014 at 7:10 PM

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Challengers to top Machinist leaders struggle to fill slate

The challengers trying to oust incumbent Machinists union International President Tom Buffenbarger haven’t been able to muster a full slate of candidates.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

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The challengers trying to oust Machinists union International President Tom Buffenbarger haven’t been able to muster a full slate of candidates, just days before the federally mandated process to elect the union’s national leadership kicks off Saturday.

Machinists will have the opportunity to nominate individual candidates for 10 national leadership positions during two meetings Saturday at the Seattle headquarters of District 751.

There’ll be a contested election in April or May only if at least 25 of the 900 local lodges nationwide nominate an opposition slate. Such is the difficulty of challenging the incumbents that the International Association of Machinists (IAM) has not had such a leadership vote in more than 50 years.

Opposition to the current national leadership is led by Jay Cronk , a former IAM staffer at the Washington, D.C., headquarters who was fired in November after announcing his run.

Since Cronk doesn’t have enough candidates to fill all 10 positions, his campaign last week issued a list with seven new candidates and three of the incumbent leadership.

However, those three incumbents promptly disowned his campaign.

One of the three is Mark Blondin, former District 751 president, a popular leader with Puget Sound-area Machinists.

Blondin issued a statement referring to the “inexperienced opportunists on the opposition slate” and stating firmly that he’s running with Buffenbarger’s team.

Similarly, the other two incumbents said adding their names to the opposition slate was “a cheap and desperate move” and “a silly ploy.”

Rick Sloan, a spokesman for Buffenbarger, said nominating people “that want nothing to do with such born losers is, well, idiotic.”

Jason Redrup, an Everett-based staffer for District 751 who is one of those on Cronk’s slate, conceded that “it’s a tough lift” to oust the entrenched International leadership.

In Saturday’s meetings, individual IAM members are free if they wish to ignore the slates and nominate just one or two individuals, according to the Department of Labor, which is overseeing the process.

Choosing the International leadership is separate from the unrelated election that will determine the replacement for District 751 President Tom Wroblewski , who recently announced his retirement.

The dates for that nomination and election process will be determined at a separate local union meeting next Tuesday.

Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or

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