Washington’s political leaders heaved a collective sigh of relief Friday night at the news that Boeing Machinists had accepted a contract guaranteeing the 777X will be assembled in the state.
But despite the high stakes for the state’s future economy, the celebration was somewhat muted. Top Democrats stressed how difficult the vote had been for Machinists, while Republicans said the state has more work to do to improve its business climate.
At a brief news conference Friday night, Gov. Jay Inslee said with the result, Washington “showed the world we can design our future, and we look forward to seeing the jetliner of that future take off.”
Inslee, a Democrat, said the union members faced “a very difficult decision” and thanked “each machinist, no matter how they voted tonight.”
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Other top Democrats struck a similar tone.
Snohomish County Executive John Lovick issued a statement saying the past few months “have been challenging for everyone involved.” He added: “The Machinists have spoken, and now it’s time to move forward as we prepare to build the 777X and work to rebuild relationships.”
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray said in a statement the tough vote ensured Boeing’s new plane “will be built in the only place it should be, by the only people prepared to deliver.”
But Murray said she knew the decision “wasn’t easy for any of the Machinists or their families” and said their worries about future income and retirement security are legitimate.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett, said “now that the state and union have delivered, it is time for Boeing to hold up its end of the bargain.”
“I am pleased the 777X will be made in Washington,” Larsen said in a statement. “It is time to move forward and start the next chapter in our state’s aerospace history.”
Republicans, meanwhile, emphasized that the state should do more to be attractive to Boeing and other employers.
“The reality is this is one piece of the puzzle. It’s a huge piece,” said state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.
Ericksen, who also acknowledged the difficulty of the Machinists’ vote, said the state “dodged an economic bullet.” But he said Republicans will continue to press for a less-strict regulatory environment and other ways to cut business costs — as well as transportation improvements to aid manufacturers.
The Washington State Republican Party celebrated in a Twitter message that “smart Machinists defy fat cat union bosses” and called for Washington to become a “right-to-work” state.
In the weeks leading up to the Machinists’ vote, many state and local elected leaders had urged the Machinists to accept the revised Boeing contract despite their misgivings.
That drew angry reactions from some Machinists, who felt they were being pressured to take a bad deal.
Other top Democrats, including Inslee, had pushed the union to schedule a vote on the contract, but avoided explicitly urging union members to vote yes.
State officials had paved the way for the vote by approving an $8.7 billion package of tax breaks for Boeing during a special session in November. That deal extended existing tax incentives for Boeing until 2040 in exchange for the 777X work.
It was the largest state-tax subsidy ever offered to a private company, according to Good Jobs First, the Washington D.C.-based policy group that tracks such deals.
But Boeing made it clear the tax incentives by themselves would not be enough to secure the construction of the 777X work for Washington.
That was dependent on the machinist union’s acceptance of a new contract that will replace traditional pensions with a 401(k)-style retirement plan — the deal Machinists narrowly accepted Friday night.
Seattle Times reporter Andrew Garber contributed to this report.
Jim Brunner: 206-515-5628 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @Jim_Brunner