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Monday, December 30, 2013

Boeing Contract: It's Time for Politicians to Put Workers Before Jobs

Posted by on Mon, Dec 30, 2013 at 3:37 PM

The latest in our ongoing battle between jobs and workers:

Boeing Co. told political leaders in the Puget Sound on Monday that this week's vote by Machinists will determine the fate of some jobs on the new 777X airplane.

Local politicians gathered at a press conference in Everett to discuss the importance of approving the revised contract offer. Boeing executive Ray Conner told the government leaders earlier in the day that an accepted contract will ensure that work on the airplane's wing stays in the Puget Sound, but a vote to reject the deal will ensure the jobs go elsewhere.

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke says there is no other choice but to vote yes. Otherwise, the politicians warned of a decline in the state's aerospace industry.

"We will see the demise of the economic stimulus that Boeing has provided us," Cooke said.

Two observations. First, by announcing that the wing would go elsewhere if this particular contract is rejected, Boeing has reduced its leverage in subsequent contract negotiations by both taking the carrot of the wing off the table and by implicitly acknowledging that it would consider keeping final assembly here with or without a contract extension. It just doesn't make sense to build it elsewhere when it already has the facility and the skilled workforce here. Even Boeing knows it.

Second, politicians may truly believe that there is "no other choice but to vote yes," but of course, they don't get a vote. Politicians are afraid of backlash from voters should these jobs leave the region, but that misses the point that the people who have the most to win or lose from this are the actual Boeing workers. It's incredibly depersonalizing to view this in terms of "economic stimulus" rather than real people's lives. And that's exactly how Boeing wants it.

We all want Boeing and the Machinists to come to terms. But I think our politicians' insistence on adopting the corporate frame is ultimately counterproductive.


Comments (22) RSS

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Sargon Bighorn 1
Put workers before jobs? WTF? With out a job you have no worker. What are you trying to say?
Posted by Sargon Bighorn on December 30, 2013 at 3:51 PM · Report this
Geocrackr 2
You forgot to put "jobs" in quotes.
Posted by Geocrackr on December 30, 2013 at 3:53 PM · Report this
How much does it cost to provide pension benefits for the machinists? I've never seen an estimate of how far apart the sides are in terms of dollars. If the state can give Boeing $9 billion in tax breaks, why not just add the machinists to the state's pension plan?
Posted by seajake on December 30, 2013 at 4:08 PM · Report this
But what about all the underemployed NBA players and T Shirt vendors who have a slow winter season ? It's Stranger-good stimulus to use bond future tax revenues help a team including one of the richest guys in the state build an arena but Stranger-bad stimulus to give uncapped (but somewhat predictable) tax breaks to a company that has been building planes here for decades ? Got it.
Posted by ChefJoe on December 30, 2013 at 4:09 PM · Report this
@1: People before abstract concepts.
Posted by Hanoumatoi on December 30, 2013 at 4:14 PM · Report this
@3 It's not really about the expense of the pensions. Moving from defined benefit (pension) to defined contribution (401k) is primarily about shifting risk of future returns from the company to employees.
Posted by decidedlyodd on December 30, 2013 at 4:52 PM · Report this
rob! 7
The Daily Herald is out of Provo, UT so I guess that explains why they dared to say the Puget Sound, but one wonders about their interest in the story—are they potentially in the running for some Boeing contracts?

Utah missed out today on being one of the six states chosen by the FAA as drone-testing locactions, so maybe they're scrambling for something flight-related (besides gay-wedding business).
Posted by rob! on December 30, 2013 at 4:57 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 8
Politicians get money from corporations and CEOs

They don't care about you serfs
Posted by Will in Seattle on December 30, 2013 at 5:03 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 9
@6 is correct
Posted by Will in Seattle on December 30, 2013 at 5:04 PM · Report this
Goldy 10
@7 It's an AP wire story. I just like to spread the wealth on AP links.
Posted by Goldy on December 30, 2013 at 5:33 PM · Report this
Rujax! 11
Why can't Senators Murray and Cantwell make it VERY DIFFICULT for Boeing to get new government contracts?
Posted by Rujax! on December 30, 2013 at 5:47 PM · Report this
@11- maybe because they're a wholly owned and operated subsidiary of Boeing inc.?
Posted by Pol Pot on December 30, 2013 at 6:10 PM · Report this
The workers will not be "first" if they have no jobs. There are no jobs for -- for example -- a 55-year-old guy who has had a 6-month "retraining" computer course but has been assembling airplane parts all his working lives. His only option will be McDonald's, which as far as I know doesn't have a good pension system.
Posted by sarah70 on December 30, 2013 at 7:01 PM · Report this
MrBaker 14
How many jobs at stake to make the wings?…

I know politicians a mooing the technology will go elsewhere song, but the technology and the workers that apply it are not the same thing.

Boeing has already put their request for split bids out there and gotten responses back, breaking the wing manufacturing work from the final assembly work into two different offers.

Goldy does make a good point about final assembly.
The reality is that a wing facility will have to be built no matter what happens with the vote. It just then becomes a question about the ongoing transportation costs of shipping wings around the country if the facilities are dislocated.
Posted by MrBaker on December 30, 2013 at 7:19 PM · Report this
@13: Maybe that's a decision he can make for himself?
Posted by Hanoumatoi on December 30, 2013 at 7:41 PM · Report this
rob! 16
@14, so they'll probably kludge together another few Dreamlifters (good news for EGAT, I guess); it then just becomes a question of seeing if they can get Atlas Air to not land them at too-small airports.
Posted by rob! on December 30, 2013 at 7:52 PM · Report this
The jobs Boeing "provides" seem to be mostly underwritten by the taxpayer in the form of tax bribes, I mean tax breaks, defense contracts and industry subsidies. Why not eliminate the middleman and employ people directly?
Posted by Oh, wait, that'd be Socialism on December 30, 2013 at 8:11 PM · Report this
This bodes ill for the union leaders. With union membership in a steep decline across the board, why would they (elected union bosses) be so reluctant to come to terms with Boeing for their workers? Do you know what these union bosses make? I know what my B.A. at the Teamsters makes and it's a substantial amount of $. If these clowns think they are playing hardball with Boeing, they are in the wrong business.
Posted by longwayhome on December 30, 2013 at 8:24 PM · Report this
@18, I don't think the national union bosses are playing hardball with Boeing; they were playing hardball with the Local in forcing a vote.

For once (and probably the last time), the Times comments were fairly well-thought-out. Most of them.
Posted by sarah70 on December 31, 2013 at 12:58 AM · Report this
Goldy knows nothing about bargaining leverage, except for the leverage of his jaw to run his mouth.
Posted by hmmmmm on December 31, 2013 at 8:18 AM · Report this
I think Boeing has already made the decision to outsource the 777X wing to the same company that builds the 787 center wing box. The only difference is that it will be built at a plant in the U.S. (Utah?) not Japan. So the IAM will still have to organize a new plant no matter where it is built. Organizing a new local is not an easy task, even in Washington.
Posted by Shmoe on December 31, 2013 at 10:11 AM · Report this
Boeing holds all the cards. They are the employers, they make the decisions, not the Unions. If they want to move the manufacturing to another state, it's up to them. If the machinists and their families want to forego their jobs and the future jobs that this project will create, then let it be on their shoulders, and hope that the union leaders don't get lynched and put on a rail to Siberia.
Posted by longwayhome on December 31, 2013 at 8:49 PM · Report this

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