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Seattle Times letters to the editor

December 13, 2013 at 4:35 PM

A crucial decision for Boeing and the Machinists union

You’ve likely been following along as Boeing and Machinists have gone back and forth in contract negotiations. Things took an interesting turn at the end of this week.

On Friday, leaders in the International Association of Machinists discussed whether to bring Boeing’s latest contract to a vote. The contract would secure work on Boeing’s new 777X airplane at a time when 22 states are competing for 8,500 highly paid jobs. Securing the jobs to build the 777X in Washington and sustaining the workforce for final assembly of the 737 MAX are goals for union members.

The proposed vote would give union members the opportunity to make up their own minds: embrace the reality of Boeing’s changing economic conditions or face the possibility that with a no vote the 777X could be built outside of Washington.

Below our readers share their thoughts:

Rep. Anne Zerr speaks on behalf of a bill she has sponsored in the House authorizing up to $1.7 billion of incentives to Boeing over more than two decades as part of Missouri's effort to land production of their new 777X commercial airplane on Friday, Dec. 6, in Jefferson City, Mo. Gov. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Rep. Anne Zerr speaks on behalf of a bill she has sponsored in the House authorizing up to $1.7 billion of incentives to Boeing over more than two decades as part of Missouri’s effort to land production of their new 777X commercial airplane on Dec. 6 in Jefferson City, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

Let’s treat Boeing employees like we treat Boeing

Gov. Jay Inslee signed into law a bunch of tax breaks for Boeing to build the 777X here [“Maybe another 777X vote,” page one, Dec. 13].

In order for Boeing to build here, the Machinists must agree to a less attractive contract. Because machinists are an essential component of the company, wouldn’t it be fair to give them signing incentives that are comparable to the Boeing tax breaks?

Such incentives would include reduced sales tax, reduced property tax, help in obtaining mortgages for their homes and lower gas tax.

— Edward Hynes, Mountlake Terrace

Pensions would hurt Boeing

The Machinists union really needs to smarten up. The old model of a company pension is just not sustainable any longer.

It used to be that an employee would retire, and then die in five to 10 years. Now an employee will live on retirement 15 to 20 years, or longer.

Some will be retired for longer than they worked for the company. Furthermore, a company would ultimately be paying more people to live out their retirement than they have actually working productively for the company.

No company can absorb the cost of effectively paying over half their workforce to not work — especially in a world market such as the one in which Boeing competes.

— Mark Ursino, Sammamish

For a skilled and experienced workforce, Boeing needs the union

It is beginning to look like the grown-ups may be coming to life both at Boeing and the union.

Hopefully, Boeing is beginning to understand that running away from unions is a losing game. Trading low wages for a skilled and experienced workforce results in quality and coordination problems, as Boeing is learning from their adventure in South Carolina.

Boeing is just recovering from its disastrous decision to spread the 787 work around the world, which included engineering and manufacturing work. Even more ludicrous was the idea floated recently to spread the 777X engineering work in the same fashion.

It is important to understand that in aircraft design and engineering, design integration is a key factor. Having engineering for a given project in one location, where the various disciplines can talk to each other face to face, is essential to design integrity. It is also less costly and more efficient because aircraft design is a constantly changing process.

The many component systems that make up aircraft design — electrical, hydraulic, structures, controls, etc., along with weight and aerodynamic considerations — all relate to each other. Many times a change to one system cascades through the entire design. It is also important to have the manufacturing process located with engineering, so that the design engineers can talk to the manufacturing engineers and others involved in actually producing the final product.

— Howard Phelps, Seattle

Boeing’s demands are neither reasonable nor sustainable

I recently read Danny Westneat’s column [“Catering to corporate demands is beneath us,” NW Sunday, Dec. 8].

Until I read this article, I was oblivious to Boeing’s preferential status as a business in Washington state. It is not unusual for companies to ask for tax breaks. However, Boeing’s recent demands are ridiculous. Boeing is asking for perks that, given our current economic situation, are not reasonable or sustainable.

Our economy is based on capitalism. Last time I checked, capitalism is an economic system in which trade and industry are controlled by private owners instead of the state. Boeing is asking the state to provide substantial subsidies, blurring the line between public and private enterprise.

Boeing is free to ask for whatever they want, but it comes down to what is right for Washington and its citizens. If the state grants Boeing’s sizable wishes, would the citizens share in its profits? How so? If we give Boeing what it wants, it sets a dangerous precedent for Boeing and other companies in the region. When this contract expires, what will Boeing ask for next? I’m definitely pro-business, but this time Boeing has gone too far.

— Jacob Wheatley, Medina

0 Comments | More in Boeing | Topics: 777X, Boeing, Machinists

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