Boeing 777x workers reject contract proposal
By The Montreal Gazette
Nov. 14, 2013, Seattle, Wa. - Despite warnings that production of Boeing's next generation 777 plane could go to another state, machinists in the Northwest voted late Wednesday to reject a contract proposal that would have exchanged concessions for decades of secure jobs.
By The Montreal Gazette
In response, the Boeing Co. said it would begin a bid process to find a home for its 777X production line.
Members of The International Association of Machinists District 751
rejected the proposal with 67 per cent of the votes. Union members who
called for a no vote did so in protest of Boeing's push to end a
traditional pension plan and increase their health care costs. Workers
would have received a $10,000 signing bonus if they approved the deal.
"We preserved something sacred by rejecting the Boeing proposal.
We've held on to our pensions and that's big. At a time when financial
planners are talking about a 'retirement crisis' in America, we have
preserved a tool that will help our members retire with more comfort and
dignity," said Tom Wroblewski, District 751 president in a statement.
Boeing had proposed the eight-year contract extension, saying it
needs the deal to assemble the new 777X in Washington state. With the
threat of those jobs going to another state, lawmakers rushed to approve
$8.7 billion in tax breaks last week.
"… 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 said in a statement.
In a late night press conference, Gov. Jay Inslee said Washington
state could have won the production of the plane without competition.
The proposal's rejection means that Boeing will look at states, such as
Texas, that have Right-To-Work laws, which halt unions.
"This is a tough night for the state of Washington," Inslee said. "We
could have had a big win tonight. We could have grabbed the brass ring
for this airplane. But I want to say this, what we were unable to finish
tonight, means that we are starting a new chapter of competition for
Inslee said that Boeing officials assured him that Washington state was still a contender.
Inslee added that the state would still have a strong showing, citing
the recent tax incentive package that was quickly passed by the
Legislature, a potential transportation package the governor still hopes
could be taken up in coming weeks, as well as the "best aerospace
workers in the world."
"The fact is this, if you want to build reliably, with the highest
quality in the world, on time, the state of Washington is the place to
do it," Inslee said.
Throughout Wednesday, the mood was tense at the union hall in Seattle where the votes were tallied.
Dian Lord, a toolmaker at Boeing's facility in Renton who is nearing
retirement, said Wednesday morning she believed the company was
extorting its workers by pushing a swift contract vote while threatening
to place 777X operations elsewhere if machinists don't oblige. Still,
Lord said she felt intense pressure to vote for the contract, especially
considering that it could impact a variety of other Boeing workers and
vendors should the company move elsewhere.
"I'm very conflicted," Lord said.
Political leaders, including many Democrats who are closely aligned
with unionized workers, declined in recent days to encourage machinists
how to vote but asked them to consider the broader impact on jobs and
future generations. IAM leaders issued a similar message, with
Wroblewski saying the vote is about 30 years of jobs for the region.
"This is an opportunity we will never see again to secure thousands
of good-paying jobs in the State of Washington," Wroblewski wrote in a
message to members before the vote.
Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said earlier this
week that the company was not bluffing in its message that the 777X line
could be placed elsewhere. He said the company prefers to stay in the
Puget Sound and that a positive vote by the union makes that decision
Along with extending tax breaks to 2040, lawmakers this past weekend
also approved millions of dollars for training programs for aerospace
workers. Lawmakers have also said that Boeing supports the development
of a large transportation package, and the Legislature is still
exploring a plan valued at about $10 billion.