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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 7, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Boeing: Questions, limited options, fighting states, new leadership needed


Boeing Factory in Everett Washington. The Boeing Everett factory product line includes the 747, 767, 777 and 787. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times).

The Boeing factory in Everett. The factory product line includes the 747, 767, 777 and 787. (Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times).

Members of the Machinists union Friday accepted Boeing’s contract proposal by a slim 51 percent, sealing a cliffhanger ending to a tense chapter in the history of their union, their industry and their region.

The union’s narrow approval of the Boeing contract extension was tough but necessary, for its economic future and for the region’s, wrote The Seattle Times’ editorial board soon after the vote. A 777X built in Everett translates to an estimated 20,000 jobs at Boeing and its suppliers, worth $20 billion in economic activity. For perspective, consider how 21 states had salivated to win the 777X competition.

Letters and emails flew in over the weekend, many questioning the deal and Boeing’s motives. The best reader submissions are below. Continue the conversation in the comments section.

A few questions about the contract deal

Now that Boeing workers have finally agreed, after much arm-twisting by meddling public officials and know-it-all paper pundits, to give away a decent pension [“Machinists invest in aerospace future,” Opinion, Jan. 6], I have a few questions:

• Since Boeing already has large pieces of every airplane built offshore by labor that is at least as expensive as it is here, what exactly have we saved for the Seattle area?

• Why does Boeing continue to give away important technology, such as how to build composite wings to foreign companies like Mitsubishi?

• Since this agreement only applies to the 777X and 737 MAX, what will workers have to give up during the next round of blackmail over the next model version?

• Who is going to support all these future geriatrics with inferior retirement incomes when the time comes for them to retire? Or will they simply be expected to work until they fall over?

Thank heaven I’ll be gone by that time. And no, I am not a Boeing worker.

Walter Marquardt, Seattle

Boeing never had the option to move 777X production

Everyone involved in the Boeing/IAM negotiations behaved rationally.

Boeing acted in their own self-interest by publicly using the threat that they would, in fact, behave irrationally: that they would move their production line to another location. That threat of irrational behavior allowed Boeing the opportunity to renegotiate a contract that would have otherwise come due in 2016, while hip-deep in the 777X production cycle.

The Machinists behaved rationally, at least at first, when they voted no on the contract offer. Their subsequent approval would be hard to fault given the loud political support of the Boeing position, and the intense public threat of irrationally moving those jobs. While it can be said that the Machinists behaved rationally by accepting the contract extension, it can also be said that they were played.

If (a big if) Boeing could actually move its production line to another state, build out the infrastructure, hire and train employees and ramp up production of a new aircraft using new technology, and do so on budget, on time, without quality problems, they would have done so without ever talking to the International Association of Machinists.

Faced with the production woes on their 787 line and the billions of dollars at stake in doubling that debacle, Boeing would not have built the 777X anywhere but here.

Stephen Daley, Seattle

Pitting states against each other

I think The Times’ Boeing 777X editorial misses the cause big time, yet still reaches the correct conclusion about unions. Yes, unions are still fighting a losing battle against business interests.

Big Business, like Boeing, is making its weight felt because it is able to pit Washington against every state with a right-to-work law and without unions. BMW, VW and Mercedes all build in the South because of lower wages. Never mind that most Southern states rank statistically dead last in education, health care and other prime quality of life measurement criteria. They rank first in low wages.

That is what Boeing is putting the IAM and Washington state up against. Boeing is not stupid enough to build their planes offshore. But in nonunion Southern states, it is close enough to offshore.

Alan Zelt, Kenmore

Not a ‘done deal’

It is of course not a “done deal” [Page One, Jan. 4]. Boeing and corporate America continue their efforts to gain profits, ostensibly for shareholders. But they’re actually profits siphoned through the hands of the small group of corporate executive officers.

Forcing a narrow vote by working people to concede a portion of their wages to those executive officers is assuredly only one step in a planned program of attacks on workers’ living standards. Health insurance, dental coverage, vacation pay and overtime pay provisions are certainly next on the concession agenda after the loss of pensions. Then come the big items: seniority and union shop.

As far as assurances that production work would forever be located in Washington state, or the U.S. for that matter, let us cite the example of Charlie Brown and Lucy, where Lucy snatches away the football when Charlie comes up to kick it.

The only real counterbalance to unilateral corporate executives comes from the organization of American working people through union organization, or politically thru workers’ political involvement. There is no “done deal;” there is continual struggle requiring continual involvement.

Carl Schwartz, Sammamish

Bring in new IAM local leadership

Every IAM member of District 751 who voted yes on the new contract, or have any hope of a long career at Boeing, should take the next step and vote in a new group of local leaders.

The current leadership group is tied to old assumptions that they actually have any leverage over Boeing and that Boeing has to assemble its aircrafts in the Puget Sound area. It does not.

It’s time to bring in a fresh group of leaders who understand today’s economic realities and will not sacrifice jobs for stale ideals.

Robert Oberlander, Issaquah

Union signed away its future

The Boeing Machinists signed away their future in order to keep the 777X production line in town — assuming that was their only option to begin with.

This is a war against labor. The local grocery workers won their skirmish, but the airplane workers lost a big won.

The corporate objective across the spectrum is to bust the few effective unions that are left, while stripping the workers of the few rights they have left.

Today, Boeing takes away the pension plan in favor of a 401(k). Tomorrow it takes away the 401(k) and replaces it with nothing. Why would they? The employees have no leverage because their union has no clout.

They signed away leverage last night. All they have to show for their failed activism is a tenuous contract and a dubious outlook.

The next contract proposal could prove fatal — for everyone.

Rhett Gambol, Seattle

Comments | More in Boeing | Topics: 777X, Boeing, Contract


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