Local leaders: 777X wing work hinges on IAM vote

EVERETT — Western Washington political and business leaders had a sobering message for the Machinists union on Monday: Rejecting the Boeing Co.’s latest contract offer will mean losing thousands of jobs and risk the future of the state’s aerospace industry.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Ray Conner told the leaders during a meeting earlier in the day that if Machinists vote no on Friday, the company will not build the carbon-composite wings of the new 777X airplane in Washington, and the plane’s final assembly also might be moved out of state.

The current version of the 777 has been built at the company’s Paine Field factory in Everett for almost 20 years.

A Boeing spokeswoman would not confirm or deny the conversation with local leaders. The company did put out a statement, however, saying that Friday “will be the last opportunity for the union to vote on a contract prior to Boeing making a decision on the 777X site.”

If the contract is approved, the company has promised, it will assemble the new version of the plane in Everett and build the wings in a 1.2-million-square-foot plant somewhere in the metro Puget Sound region.

Local Machinists leaders, though, expect union members will reject the offer, which, they say, is laden with benefit concessions.

“The decision of where Boeing builds its plane shouldn’t be put on the backs of our members,” said Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The district represents about 31,000 Machinists working at the Chicago-based aerospace giant in Western Washington and Portland, Ore.

Elected officials from Everett, Renton, Kent and Snohomish County on Monday urged IAM members to approve the contract.

“This is a linchpin time,” said Bob Drewel, head of the Washington Aerospace Partnership.

The 777X’s composite wings represent the future of airplane production, so if they aren’t built here, the area could lose its competitive edge, the officials said at a news conference.

“We have an opportunity to either grow the aerospace industry here in Everett, here in Snohomish County and here in the state of Washington,” Drewel said. “Or, unfortunately and conversely, we will watch that industry shrink in front of us.”

District 751 leaders are recommending that members reject the contract offer, which, they say, forces workers to give up too much. The changes include replacing a defined pension plan with a defined contribution plan.

The public officials defended the Boeing offer, saying that if it’s approved, Boeing would still pay Machinists an above-market rate. “I think it’s a good contract,” Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said.

“We want them (Machinists) to make the decision that’s going to benefit this region,” he said. “And this contract would mean jobs in this region.”

The group noted that Boeing improved on a previous offer, which union members rejected in November by a 2-to-1 margin.

But the new contract offer is still a significant step down from the current one, which runs through 2016, several Machinists said.

“We’re just trying to fight for a middle class life and to provide for our families,” said Robley Evans, a Machinist at Boeing.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com.

More in Herald Business Journal

Boeing asks that its big state tax break be suspended

The company hopes the move will resolve a trade dispute involving European rival Airbus.

Boeing finds debris in wing fuel tanks of several 737 Maxs

The company did not say what the objects were found, but one report said they included tools and rags.

Charge: Lynnwood tobacco smuggler dodged $1 million in taxes

The man, 57, reportedly dealt in illicit cigarettes. Tax returns claimed he sold hats and T-shirts.

Some dissent emerges on new engineering contract with Boeing

“This is being shoved down our throats,” said one SPEEA council rep.

FAA faces dilemma over 737 Max wiring flaw that Boeing missed

The vulnerability could lead to an emergency similar to the one that brought down two jets.

Everett’s new passenger terminal gets some national love

Paine Field was voted 8th-best among a selection of small airports, some of which aren’t all that small.

United pushes back expected return of grounded Boeing planes

United, Southwest and American are bracing for a second straight summer without their Max planes.

US manufacturing output hit by Boeing troubles, slips 0.1%

Excluding the production of airplanes and parts, factory production rose 0.3%.

Boeing and engineering union agree on new, extended contract

The board of SPEEA will recommend the proposal to its 18,000 members in the Puget Sound area.

Airbus CEO sees no short-term benefit from Boeing Max woes

The European planemaker’s competing A320 is sold out through 2025.

Virus outbreak in China poses a new problem for Boeing

A number of deliveries are ready for Chinese customers who “cannot come to Seattle to take delivery.”

Boeing wins zero orders and delivers just 13 jets in January

Airbus by comparison had a big order month, winning net orders for 274 commercial aircraft.