Boeing, Machinists union in talks over 777X

Reuters and The Seattle Times are reporting that the Boeing Co. and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) are in until-now-secret talks to extend the IAM contract, place final assembly of the 777X in Everett and do carbon-fiber-composite wing fabrication elsewhere in the Puget Sound region (Fredrickson?).

If true, this is huge. The fear that the high cost of labor in Washington might prompt Boeing to do this work somewhere like North Charleston, S.C., has been freaking out state leaders for months.

If a deal happens, there is precedent, as you probably know. A similar deal in 2011 assured 737 Max final assembly in Renton.

“The talks are aimed at a multi-year extension to the existing machinists’ contract expiring in 2016, said one source familiar with the talks,” Reuters says. “Another source said the contract would run until the middle of next decade.

“Under the deal being discussed, machinists could receive a bonus payment if the talks result in an agreement approved by the IAM membership, one of the sources said. However, Boeing has warned union leaders that it will open talks with other potential locations if the discussions break down, the source added.”

Reuters was unable to get the company or the union to comment, but The Seattle Times says a state official has confirmed the talks. Alex Pietsch, director of the governor’s aerospace office, told the Times: “We’re aware negotiations are happening. We are hopeful the parties can come to an agreement.”

Adds the Times: “One person said Tom Buffenbarger, national head of the International Assocation of Machinists (IAM), was in Seattle last week for the talks. Ray Conner, head of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is leading the management side of the negotiations.”

If you are feeling whiplashed, it’s no wonder. Last week, Boeing said it would distribute 777X engineering among six sites — and perhaps Everett. And aerospace analysts have been proffering scenarios that put 777X final assembly almost anywhere but Everett.

The formal announcement of the 777X program’s launch is expected at the Dubai Air Show Nov. 17-21. The plane will be a major makeover. While the fuselage will be aluminum like the original model built today at Paine Field, the wings are to be made of carbon-fiber composite material, among other improvements.

Nothing says Boeing has to settle all the design and manufacturing plans before the formal program announcement in Dubai, of course, but those kinds of decisions are no longer trivial to airline buyers of a new jetliner after the debacle of the 787 program.

To cite just one data point, the vaunted business friendliness of South Carolina might be indisputable, but the actual productivity of the line there is disputable. By now Boeing had hoped North Charleston would be producing three airplanes a month, but the actual rate is 1.5 per month.

If Boeing wants to ensure the 777X can be built efficiently, or even at all, it has to be thinking of ways to avoid building another factory from scratch somewhere else. For Boeing, talking to the IAM is a no-brainer. For Washington aerospace boosters, it is a happy surprise.

More in Herald Business Journal

Snohomish inventor makes changing beds magical

He hopes to make his big push in the hotel industry, where injuries to housekeepers are increasing.

Boeing planes designed for Alaska to make final flights

The special Boeing 737-400s carry cargo in the middle of the plane and 72 passengers in the rear.

Job fair planned for Tulalip community members

Tulalip Tribes Employment is holding an employment clinic from 9 to 11:30… Continue reading

New memory care community opens in Mukilteo

Health care insurance is the next topic on KSER’s monthly personal finance… Continue reading

Marysville Tulalip chamber plans to host candidates forum

The next Greater Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce Business Before Hours event… Continue reading

New memory care community opens in Mukilteo

Mukilteo Memory Care celebrated its grand opening earlier this month. The state-of-the-art… Continue reading

Monroe’s Canyon Creek Cabinet names new exec VP

Mark Kovich has joined Monroe-headquartered Canyon Creek Cabinet Company as the executive… Continue reading

Century 21 North Homes Realty adds new agent in Lynnwood

Century 21 North Homes Realty has welcomed Adriene Crum to its Lynnwood… Continue reading

Longtime Comcast Everett employee travels to aid Houston

Lake Stevens resident and longtime Comcast Everett employee Brandon Johnson traveled to… Continue reading

Most Read