By Steve Lucas
Love them or hate them, union Machinists know how to build airplanes like nobody’s business, especially the legacy machinists. Just go back to the history of the iconic 747. Built in just 16 months, before the factory for it was even completed, those union Machinists were part of a larger Boeing group that earned the title “The Incredibles.”
Damn right they want a piece of the pie. Why not! What industry compares with those responsible for putting their stamp on every job they touch? A trail that traces them right back to their doorsteps if some day, years away, something they touched is even remotely part of an airliner accident. Retired or not, they will call them in to account for themselves.
Union workers build the most amazing airliners that Boeing engineers have so beautifully designed. Airliners that safely navigate an atmosphere where pressures would cause a person’s blood to boil, where the temperature is 50 below zero, where the air so thin that a term to describe how tenuous stable flight is at that altitude is appropriately called the Coffin Corner; the difference between Mach tuck from flying too fast, and a full stall from flying too slow, is a matter of only a few knots of airspeed. That’s why autopilots handle the work at those heights.
Building airliners is nothing like building cars, boats, motorcycles or bicycles. These things have millions of parts that must interact with each other in the most hostile of environments while sustaining human life in oblivious comfort, for millions of air miles over the life of a single airliner.
So the next time you step aboard a Boeing airliner, ask yourself what you think a union mechanic’s talent is worth! Your life is in their hands. They know what’s behind those panels, floorboards, luggage bins, the skin on the wings, the cowlings on the engines. Things the average passenger has no idea even exist. Those Machinists take tremendous pride in knowing it’s safe. They and their quality assurance counterparts put their name on every job they touch.
If anyone thinks there is a business case that favors building the 777X in any other place on the planet other than Everett, Washington, let them show their numbers. Building the 777X anywhere else will be an act of shear spite, not economic sense, and will have embarrassing repercussions for the company. The union knows it, Boeing knows it, and those customers with 100 billion USD in 777X orders know it as well.
Lastly, if the Boeing union needs to make a sacrifice for the sake of the company’s ability to compete, let our leadership set the example. After all, isn’t that why they are called leaders?
Steve Lucas lives in Lynnwood.