State needs to be ‘right-to-work’

Gov. Gregoire recently commented there is no legislative solution to a “no-strike” agreement between the Machinists union and Boeing. That is not the case. The Legislature can vote to change Washington to a “right-to-work” state.

Four strikes in 20 years in heavy aviation manufacturing is the equivalent of regional economic epilepsy. Washington has clear advantage over South Carolina in experienced labor, plus mature infrastructure and supplier bases. These advantages are moot because Boeing can’t make guarantees to customers. “Right-to-work” tips the scale in South Carolina’s favor. Correcting this costs taxpayers nothing.

Employees voluntarily pay for representation without being coerced by law. It’s true in South Carolina, where the Machinists union recently negotiated its current deal with Vought.

The astounding arrogance of a bronze burn-barrel monument outside Machinists headquarters is beyond words, and indicates no partnership with Boeing. Worse, it shows repudiation of the responsibility the union has to everyone that depends on business from its membership — supermarkets, car dealers, furniture suppliers, real estate agents, school teachers, police officers, window washers, etc. When Machinists strike, they strike against the entire economy of Western Washington.

If the union oversteps, membership declines, and strikes solve themselves. If Boeing abuses employees, membership climbs, and Boeing’s board and customers question their long-term ability to deliver. Should abuse continue — shareholders, employees and customers will strike.

The relationship between elected leaders and unions don’t have to be a suicide pact. Without doubt, changing the law would require genuine political courage. However, the Machinists union alone controls Washington’s economic destiny, and shouldn’t. The Herald knows this, as do legislators, but all are silent. Legislators want a “no-strike” deal — it preserves the union monopoly and aims to placate Boeing, but without requiring legislative action.

The Legislature can solve this itself. Will it?

Playing poker with this region’s future is truly abuse of power.

Matthew Kelly