It was a nasty battle that culminated Friday night with International Association of Machinists District 751 narrowly approving an eight-year contract extension from Boeing. It pitted a thriving company against its workers, a local union against its international office and individual union workers against each other.
It was a difficult choice for the union – determined by a slim 600-vote majority – to accept a leaner contract with a shift to a defined contribution pension plan. The vote creates lingering questions about whether this will diminish wages in other sectors or weaken unions in general.
Nonetheless, the Machinists chose job security for another generation of 20,000 or more workers and secured a strong economic future for the region.
The Puget Sound has been the center of aerospace technology for decades. The positive machinists’ vote, as difficult as it was for them, means that we will remain on the forefront of aircraft innovation for decades to come.
The vote ensured the 777X will be built here, along with its cutting-edge carbon fiber wing. That new wing technology holds promise as the core of the next generation of airplanes.
Building a hometown workforce skilled in this new technology gives the Puget Sound a long-term edge for winning other Boeing projects. It may also boost the region’s economy by attracting other manufacturers critical to the aerospace supply chain.
The package of Boeing incentives approved by state Legislature last fall included a commitment to fund additional aerospace training programs at our community and technical colleges. That will do more than provide local jobs. It increases the probability that our aerospace industry will grow.
If the Machinists had voted no, would Boeing have moved the 777X to one of the 21 other states vying for this work? It’s a moot point now that the state and the union have delivered on the company’s demands.
Now, it’s up to Boeing to make good on its promises to the state and its employees. As Rep. Rick Larson said, “It is time for Boeing to hold up its end of the bargain.”