Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We didn't "lose" the second 787 line: The fix was in for South Carolina

So the big news today is that Boeing has decided to put its second 787 Dreamliner production line in Charleston, South Carolina instead of Everett, Washington.

Cue a legion of right wing commenters coming out of the woodwork to gloat that it's all the fault of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) or Governor Chris Gregoire. Or both. And cue the hand-wringing by local elected officials, business lobbyists, and opinion writers who will ruefully express their disappointment and unhappiness with the company's decision.

Over the next forty eight hours we will hear many voices grumbling that we coulda, shoulda done something to keep this from happening.

What they don't seem to understand is this: The fix is in. It has been for a long time. Really, the fix has been in ever since Boeing merged with McDonnell Douglas and the folks from that company were put in the cockpit, so to speak. The people who came over from McDonnell Douglas and now run the show at Boeing are squeamish bean counters who are obsessed with costs and don't understand appreciate the talented workforce that Boeing has nurtured for decades here in Puget Sound. They don't see the benefit of paying workers a livable wage, and they resent that they can't simply dictate terms to their employees.

It was clear when Boeing bought the Vought facility in South Carolina what was going to happen next. If Boeing didn't plan to expand there, why else would it have acquired the plant?

We gave Boeing billions of dollars in tax breaks and incentives several years ago to persuade the company to put the first 787 production line here.

Does anyone seriously believe we should do anything Boeing wants just so they won't open facilities in another state?

Again, the reason this decision was made is very simple: Boeing's management and its board, as we have previously noted, are shortsighted suits who want to sell airplanes, not build them. They're corner cutters.

They want to do everything on the cheap.

That is why the second 787 production line is going to South Carolina. It has nothing to do with our business climate, which Forbes Magazine says is one of the best in the country. And it's not because Boeing doesn't feel welcome or wanted here. Boeing already has billions in tax breaks and incentives from us; they baited us into giving them a free ride.

It's corner cutting. Boeing management wants the same results it gets from its highly trained, well paid Puget Sound workforce for less. And its executives foolishly seem to believe that's going to happen even though the Dreamliner delays have proved that the company's original game plan for building the plane on the cheap by outsourcing work to every supplier they could sign up was totally unrealistic.

So to those who feel like we've lost something today: Cheer up. We didn't "lose" anything. This was already in motion.

If anything, Boeing was trying to see whether they could get the leadership of the IAM to sell out its membership... while at the same time getting South Carolina to pony up a package of tax breaks and incentives. Cha-ching!

Boeing knew full well that union leaders cannot and would not sell out their members. So, with South Carolina's offerings in hand, the company stopped pretending that it was interested in putting a second production line in Everett, and made the announcement that its execs wanted to make all along. IAM Local 751 President Tom Wroblewski explains:
We tried very hard to reach an extended agreement with Boeing. We listened closely to what executives said, and suggested ideas to meet their needs. We offered concrete, real-world solutions.

But I can tell you now, no matter what Boeing says or implies, the truth is this: We did offer Boeing a 10-year contract, and even offered to go longer than that. And when we did, they seemed stunned, and stopped talking.

It was obvious to me that Boeing wasn’t really interested in working with us. They didn't take our proposals seriously and they never offered any proposals of their own. Most of the time, they didn’t even take notes.

It's now clear that Boeing was only using our talks as a smoke screen, and as a bargaining chip to extort a bigger tax handout from South Carolina.
Now that the company's intentions have become more obvious to those who naively believed we were seriously in the running for a second production line, perhaps we can have a conversation about making our economy less dependent on Boeing. The most versatile economy is a diversified one. We should not be reliant on one or two employers to supply good jobs in our region and our state.


Blogger Phil said...

From just your opening line, it is easily discernible that no one here at "The Advocate" has ever taken an Econ101 course.

The "living wage" in S. Carolina is much less than what Washington's version of said unicorn. You all act like every community from coast to coast has the same cost of living. What you would probably consider a "living wage" in Seattle would cause starvation in California. Which is part of the reason business have been fleeing that state for years.

Now, this is partly Boeing's fault for caving in to past union demands. They've created an "entitled" class of employee. Even down at the last minute, the Washington Machinists were asking for concessions from Boeing.

Also, don't waste your breath calling these guys "skilled" or "hardworking". I was supposed to be the third generation of Boeing employee in my family. I know why it was called the "Lazy-B Ranch". A Boeing "Machinist" doesn't work a lathe. They operate screwdrivers (and if they drop a screw they don't bother picking it up, and instead reach into the parts bin for a new one). A Boeing "Electrician" un-spools prefabbed rolls of wire and plugs them in. You're reading too much union propaganda, Andrew.

Conversely, the SC Machinists, just as skilled as those in our state, ditched their bloodsucking union and said they'd work for the same rate as under their last contract.

Since they no longer have to pay union dues, this means they actually got a pay raise.

Face it, the WA Dems feel entitled to have Boeing plants here, and the union Boeing employees feel entitled to milk the company for every dime they demand. This is a small scale replay of the UAW and Michigan.

The WA Dems and the unions are 0 for 6 now. Time for some real "Change" if WA wants to stay competitive.

October 29, 2009 6:14 AM  

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