NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Machinists reject Boeing’s unreasonable offer on 777X work by a two-to-one margin

The thir­ty thou­sand plus mem­bers of the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Machin­ists and Aero­space Work­ers Dis­trict 751 have over­whelm­ing­ly vot­ed to reject an offer from the Boe­ing Com­pa­ny that would have replaced their exist­ing labor agree­ment with a new long-term con­tract, the union’s lead­er­ship announced ear­li­er tonight.

At a press con­fer­ence in Seat­tle, IAMAW 751 Pres­i­dent Tom Wrob­lews­ki said that six­ty-sev­en per­cent of his mem­bers had turned down an offer from Boe­ing Com­mer­cial Air­planes that would have sub­stan­tial­ly reduced Machin­ists’ deferred pay and ben­e­fits through 2024 in exchange for a com­mit­ment to build the 777X in Wash­ing­ton State. He lat­er released a state­ment reflect­ing on the vote.

“Today, the demo­c­ra­t­ic process worked and our mem­bers made the deci­sion to not accept the company’s pro­pos­al. It is my belief that we rep­re­sent the best aero­space work­force in the world and hope that as a result of this vote Boe­ing will not dis­card our skills when look­ing to place the 777X.”

“We pre­served some­thing sacred by reject­ing the Boe­ing pro­pos­al. We’ve held on to our pen­sions and that’s big. At a time when finan­cial plan­ners are talk­ing about a ‘retire­ment cri­sis’ in Amer­i­ca, we have pre­served a tool that will help our mem­bers retire with more com­fort and dig­ni­ty,” he added.

Tech­ni­cal­ly, Boe­ing’s offer was a con­tract exten­sion, but for all intents and pur­pos­es it amount­ed to a new con­tract that would have tak­en effect imme­di­ate­ly, inval­i­dat­ing the old one and set­ting a bad prece­dent for future labor agree­ments.

Boe­ing Com­mer­cial Air­planes chief Ray Con­ner, who received $1.87 mil­lion in salary and cash bonus­es just last year (not count­ing stock options, awards, and delayed com­pen­sa­tion, which bring his haul up to $7.8 mil­lion) prompt­ly respond­ed by con­firm­ing that Boe­ing would now con­sid­er locat­ing 777X pro­duc­tion else­where.

“We are very dis­ap­point­ed in the out­come of the union vote,” Con­ner said. “Our goal was two-fold: to enable the 777X and its new com­pos­ite wing to be pro­duced in Puget Sound and to cre­ate a com­pet­i­tive struc­ture to ensure that we con­tin­ue mar­ket-lead­ing pay, health care and retire­ment ben­e­fits while pre­serv­ing jobs and our indus­tri­al base here in the region.

“But with­out the terms of this con­tract exten­sion, we’re left with no choice but to open the process com­pet­i­tive­ly and pur­sue all options for the 777X. I’d like to thank Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee and the Wash­ing­ton state leg­is­la­ture for all their efforts in this process. We had hoped for a dif­fer­ent out­come.”

Con­ner is being duplic­i­tous. Boe­ing does have a choice. The 777X is Boe­ing’s air­plane. They could choose to return to the nego­ti­at­ing table with the Machin­ists if they want­ed to. But they don’t. Boe­ing set up this “all or noth­ing” deci­sion. They sought delib­er­a­tive­ly to put the Machin­ists in a no-win posi­tion.

To that end, they offered a very one-sided con­tract, rea­son­ing that if the Machin­ists accept­ed it, they would have suc­ceed­ed in weak­en­ing the pow­er of orga­nized labor in one of Amer­i­ca’s most union­ized states, where­as in the event of a rejec­tion, they could make the Machin­ists look like the vil­lain and cre­ate a pre­text for look­ing at putting 777X pro­duc­tion else­where. Boe­ing orches­trat­ed these events.

None of us should be fooled by their pos­tur­ing. If Boe­ing real­ly cared about pre­serv­ing jobs and mak­ing a com­mit­ment to our region, its best offer to the Machin­ists would have looked very dif­fer­ent.

The com­pa­ny wields a tremen­dous amount of clout in our state cap­i­tal… so much so that, as we just saw, the com­pa­ny was able to get Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee to call a spe­cial ses­sion on its behalf so that law­mak­ers could sign off on a good­ies bag that includes one of the biggest cor­po­rate tax breaks in Amer­i­can his­to­ry.

But Boe­ing’s clout, Boe­ing’s threats, and Boe­ing’s bas­tion of cheer­lead­ers weren’t enough to roll the Machin­ists. Tonight, the mem­bers of Dis­trict 751 took a stand… and not just for them­selves. They took a stand for all of us.

The Machin­ists stood against an unfair, insult­ing offer that asked them to give up years of hard-won gains. They declined to will­ing­ly par­tic­i­pate in a race to the bot­tom. They refused to be intim­i­dat­ed and pushed around by a com­pa­ny that has become obsessed with short-term prof­its at the expense of long-term suc­cess.

We salute their brav­ery and courage tonight.

If Boe­ing exec­u­tives are smart, they will choose to build the 777X here, take advan­tage of the incred­i­bly gen­er­ous tax incen­tives that Wash­ing­ton State law­mak­ers just vot­ed to approve, and bar­gain in good faith with the Machin­ists on a con­tract that is fair and rea­son­able, not one that takes away deferred pay and ben­e­fits. That would be the wise course of action to take.

Or, they can choose to build the 777X else­where, spurn­ing the peo­ple of the state of Wash­ing­ton and the ded­i­cat­ed, tal­ent­ed work­ers who build the 737, 777, 787 and oth­er Boe­ing jets. That would be a grave mis­take.

We hope Boe­ing exec­u­tives come to their sens­es and real­ize what tonight’s vote was real­ly about. The Machin­ists want the 777X to be built here. They’re capa­ble of build­ing the world’s best and most reli­able air­planes, but they want to be treat­ed respect­ful­ly and com­pen­sat­ed fair­ly. They’re frus­trat­ed because they don’t feel Boe­ing is show­ing them the loy­al­ty they have so con­sis­tent­ly shown Boe­ing.

If Boe­ing can afford to hand­some­ly reward its exec­u­tives with big pay­checks and lucra­tive stock options, it can afford to do right by its work­ers, and it should.

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2 Comments

  1. Was there any lan­guage in the con­tract that guar­an­teed the work would be done here?

    # by Mike Barer :: November 14th, 2013 at 12:44 PM
  2. My guess from the infor­ma­tion is that Boe­ing does­n’t want to build the air­plane here. That is why they rushed to a vote with no process of delib­er­a­tion.
    Change is nev­er easy, but it may be time to tran­si­tion the cities that are depen­dent on Boe­ing to a dif­fer­ent econ­o­my. Maybe the state will become a win­ner out of this.
    Down the road, high turnover and the cost replac­ing work­ers who leave for bet­ter wages, could be a detri­ment to Boe­ing, time will tell.

    # by Mike Barer :: November 15th, 2013 at 3:15 PM