The takeaway from the International Association of Machinists’ tsunami rejection of the pistol-to-your-head Boeing contract: Working people don’t want to get buffaloed, especially by elites.
The contract was textbook divide and conquer. Create an incentive package that segments union membership. A $10,000 bonus draws younger workers disinclined to stew about retirement. Ready-to-retire employees benefit now, however mindful of a raw deal for newer machinists. Solidarity, though, animates a union. An unintended consequence of finger wagging is shove-it unanimity.
As The Herald Editorial Board wrote on Sunday, “To ensure 777X production in Washington, Machinists have been pressured to take one for the team, ratifying a contract freighted with concessions. Trouble is, the Machinists are the team.”
So, the posturing and the bluff calling. It’s clear Boeing is serious about looking elsewhere. This may be what the company intended — a pretext to explore options with anti-union, right-to-work states. But Boeing’s greatest legacy is its superb workforce. And union membership is defending that legacy.
“Without the terms of this contract extension, we’re left with no choice but to open the process competitively and pursue all options for the 777X,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner said in a statement.
One of the more astute reads comes from Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett. “I believe Washington is still the best place to build the 777X, but the hill just got steeper,” Larsen said. “We now need to be prepared for an intense competition with other states and countries that want these jobs.”
The Legislature’s incentive package is tough to beat. The $8.7 billion in tax breaks, according to a watchdog group, Good Jobs First, is the biggest state-tax package for a private company in U.S. history. Lawmakers, still smarting from Boeing’s second 787 production line in South Carolina, wisely inserted conditions to make the deal contingent upon 777X production in Washington.
The best public investment was $17 million for aerospace training at community and technical colleges, including the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center at Paine Field. These students will expand Puget Sound’s pool of skilled aerospace workers. Alabama, Texas and Utah can’t compare.
Resentment runs high. As Washington Labor Council President Jeff Johnson said, workers simply want to share in the prosperity.
The Cold War between Boeing and the Machinists can’t last more than a few days or everyone will lose. A neutral party with judgment and gravitas needs to invite IAM District 751 and Boeing back to the table to start anew. Tabula rasa.
What say you, Jerry Grinstein and Bill Ruckelshaus?