As mentioned in today’s Seattle Times Q&A on the crucial union vote, Boeing took out an ad in Tuesday’s paper including a letter from Commercial Airplanes chief Ray Conner. Conner indicated that winning fabrication of the 777X, a giant structure made from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic composite would increase Washington’s chances of winning future new airplanes beyond 777X.
Conner said the 777X would offer the Puget Sound area “an open door to future new programs through access to key technologies in wing fabrication and assembly.”
But as noted in the story, in both the union agreement being voted on today and the deal sealed earlier with the state, Boeing’s commitment is limited to building the 777X here. You could fly a jet big enough to replace the 737 through Conner’s “open door,” which is clearly not any kind of hard promise.
The reality is that, if Washington state wins the 777X, then when Boeing comes to build its next all-new airplane it will be in better shape to compete against Boeing’s other assembly site in South Carolina.
But you can bet there will be a competition all over again, asking for incentives from the state and concessions from the union. This strategy is just too successful for Boeing not to use it next time too. And it will likely happen around 2020, four years before the proposed new contract with the IAM expires, so that once again a strike will not be an option.
Winning 777X now means securing tens of thousands of jobs for 20 years. Beyond that timeframe, the state and the IAM will likely have to keep on giving.