Welcome home, Boeing

The agonizing courtship of the 777X has been reduced to the sweetest suitor of all, the working women and men of the Boeing Co.

The bargaining savvy of Machinists outring the white noise of steering committees and chamber resolutions. On Tuesday, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers announced that the 32,000 members of District 751 will vote on a contract extension that runs through 2024. Quid pro agreement, Boeing will manufacture the 777X in Everett, and (surprise) produce its carbon-fiber-composite wings somewhere in the Northwest.

The contract is legacy-defining, but there are bite-hard trade-offs, such as the loss of pension accruals for current employees (cushioned by a $10,000 signing bonus) that some members will find disheartening.

“Only a project as significant as the 777X and the jobs it will bring to this region warrants consideration of the terms contained in Boeing’s proposal,” the IAM’s Tom Wroblewski said in a statement.

Add to the union negotiating, art-of-the-possible politics. An hour after the IAM announcement, Gov. Jay Inslee — flanked by Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson (a major player and permit task force honcho), County Executive John Lovick, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner, and union leaders — appeared at a press conference to unveil Part II, the special session.

The special session scheduled to begin Thursday and last a week (likely seven days in the metaphorical-biblical sense) tackles three to-do items that are plums for Boeing and largely a windfall for Washingtonians. These include a transportation revenue package (note that “revenue” is code for a phased, 10-cent gas tax); and education and workforce development, including bolstering enrollment in aerospace fields at community and technical colleges and worker training to manufacture composites (a hat tip to Rep. Mike Sells for his leadership creating the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center and Sells, Mayor Stephanson and Rep. Hans Dunshee for breathing life into a WSU/Everett.) The third leg is streamlined permitting to accelerate development of large manufacturing sites.

Reform workers comp? The silence is evocative.

A final component, “balanced, practical solutions that achieve water-quality goals,” demands strict scrutiny. Inslee said Tuesday that his plan to ameliorate fish-consumption fears wasn’t conceived in a “slapdash way.” We hope so. In matters of human health, the best politics is no politics.

The Legislature needs to act, just as it needs to avoid the effluence of its own exuberance. Lawmakers can boost Boeing without compromising the public interest.

And so, for now, welcome home, Boeing. We missed you.

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