Keep focus on future flight

The news was not unexpected, but still had the power to shock. Such a regional earthquake will produce strong aftershocks for some time.

The failure of Boeing and the Machinists union to reach a new long-term deal for a second 787 assembly line in Everett is extremely disappointing.

Boeing’s announcement Wednesday to build a second 787 final assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., comes after months of negotiations that went nowhere, despite the best efforts of vested, interested outside parties.

After the Machinist’s 57-day strike last year, Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney made it repeatedly clear what the company wanted from the union on the heels of new, four-year-contracts for Machinists, engineers and technical workers — some sort of agreement that production wouldn’t yet again be interrupted by a work stoppage.

This didn’t necessarily have to be a no-strike agreement, but perhaps an extension of the latest, hard-fought contract — which is generous and appropriate for such skilled workers. It seemed reasonable in a recession, during which Boeing has laid off thousands of workers and experienced repeated Dreamliner delays (yes, often due to out-sourced work, including in South Carolina), that the Machinists would compromise. But that didn’t happen in time, Boeing followed through with its threat, and those second line jobs are lost.

Sen. Patty Murray, who has been in talks with the union and Boeing for months, said she was disappointed in the outcome, which left her feeling a bit unbalanced. We second that emotion. And we’ll add “frustrated.” The senator emphasized, however, that it is important that people don’t spend the next days pointing fingers. “There are 8,000 ways we could fix blame,” she said.

Instead, what’s important, Murray said, is that “we get up tomorrow and do what we’ve always done,” which is building quality airplanes. Just like when Boeing announced massive layoffs or its intention to move its headquarters to Chicago.

Producing excellent airplanes is the best argument for Boeing to continue investing in jobs here, which it vows to do. Meanwhile, figuring out how to maintain a strong aerospace presence in this region is more important than ever before.

There is definitely a missed opportunity here, a chance for Boeing and the union to improve their working relationship. That didn’t happen.

Repairing a relationship is difficult, but the Machinists and Boeing have so many reasons to keep this long, fruitful partnership thriving, and flying.

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