Boeing Machinists Reject Deal on Building 777X in Washington

Thursday, 14 Nov 2013 02:32 PM

By David Ogul

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Boeing machinists in the state of Washington rejected an eight-year contract that would have eliminated pensions and raised health care costs, but would mean two decades of job security working on the aerospace giant’s new 777X in the Pacific Northwest.

The vote means Boeing will look elsewhere to build the 777X, and officials said it threatens the company’s nearly century-long presence in the state.

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“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,” Tom Wroblewski, president of the International Association of Machinists District 757, said, according to The Associated Press.

But earlier this week, Ray Conner, the CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the company was not bluffing in its warning that it would look to build elsewhere if the contract was rejected.

“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 Wednesday, according to the AP.

Washington officials are desperate to hold onto Boeing, and the state just last week approved $8.7 billion in tax breaks. Boeing’s contract offer included a $10,000 signing bonus for employees if they approved the deal.

In a fact sheet, Boeing says the 777X “provides the most payload and range capability and growth potential in the medium-sized airplane category — all with the lowest operating costs. The 777 has received orders for more than 1,400 airplanes. The 777X will include new engines, an all-new composite wing and will leverage technologies from the 787 Dreamliner. The 777X will be the largest and most efficient twin engine jet in the world.”

One Boeing worker told Reuters that they voted to take the deal, fearing that doing otherwise would lead to the elimination of 20,000 jobs over the next decade as production moves elsewhere.

“I don’t think Boeing is bluffing at all,” said the worker. “They did it with the second line of the 787.”

Reuters noted that Boeing’s alternatives include Japan and South Carolina, the latter of which is a nonunion state where the company manufactures the 787 Dreamliner.

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