Boeing says union vote big factor in 777X jobs
SEATTLE – Boeing Co. told political leaders in the Puget Sound on Monday that this week’s vote by the Machinists union will determine the fate of some jobs on the new 777X airplane.
Local politicians gathered at a press conference in Everett to discuss the importance of approving the revised contract offer. They said Boeing executive Ray Conner told them earlier in the day that an accepted contract will ensure that work on the airplane’s wing stays in the Puget Sound, but a vote to reject the deal will ensure the jobs go elsewhere.
Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke says there is no other choice but to vote yes. Otherwise, the politicians warned of a decline in the state’s aerospace industry.
“We will see the demise of the economic stimulus that Boeing has provided us,” Cooke said.
Boeing spokesman Doug Alder declined to discuss details of the company’s conversations with local leaders but said this week will “be the last opportunity for the union to vote prior to Boeing making a decision” on where it will build the 777X.
Local union leaders have opposed the contract because they believe it involves too many concessions, including a plan to shift workers away from traditional pensions. National leaders in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers have scheduled a vote despite the objections of local officials.
Since the Machinists rejected a contract offer last month, the company has solicited bids from other states. A total of 22 states have submitted offers to secure work on the 777X.
Boeing’s warning on Monday focused on the composite wing needed for the 777X. John Lovick, the Snohomish County executive, said Boeing plans to build a 1.2 million square foot building to construct the wing in the Puget Sound if the Machinists approve the latest offer.
The political leaders said the company’s warnings didn’t address where the fuselage would be built if Machinists reject the offer.
Still, they said the composite wing is a new technology that will be a critical component for airplanes of the future. If that work goes elsewhere, it likely will mean future airplane production will go where the wings are built, the government leaders said.
“We have an opportunity to either grow the aerospace industry here in Everett … and here in the state of Washington,” said Bob Drewel, a former Snohomish County executive, “or, unfortunately and conversely, we will watch that industry shrink in front of us.”
While the local officials each said the Machinists should accept the contract, a spokeswoman for Washington Gov. Jay Inslee didn’t go that far. Jaime Smith said the governor believes workers need to make the decision “for themselves, based on what they think is best for themselves and their families.”
Production of Boeing’s 777X would likely secure thousands of well-paying jobs to whatever region wins the work. The plane is a new iteration of its strong-selling 777, and the company recently received orders for 225 new 777X planes from three airlines at the Dubai Airshow.
Boeing began offering the 777X in May, but it’s still finalizing plans for the plane and aiming to deliver the first aircraft by the end of the decade. Boeing has said it is expected to carry as many as 400 passengers and be more fuel efficient than the current 777.
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