FRIDAY’S vote by members of the Machinists union is bigger than labor-management tensions over a contract extension with Boeing.
This is a referendum on stable employment within a company and a region for decades to come. Rank-and-file members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) District 751 are not happy with revisions to the pension plan, but they must ultimately hunker down and compromise for the future — continued employment, top wages and benefits.
The current contract expires in 2016. The next two years would go by very quickly if the union loses sight of the bigger picture. It overwhelmingly rejected Boeing’s first offer in November. If Friday’s vote is another indignant rejection of the contract, expect Boeing to move swiftly.
Boeing workers are casting ballots on a contract extension that includes bonuses, higher wages, established seniority and earning progression, health and welfare benefits, and a 401(k) plan.
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That is a package not likely to be found outside Boeing employment by those whose jobs would be jeopardized by a “no” vote.
One of the glaring realities around this vote, and the tensions over Boeing’s commitment to Puget Sound and the Northwest, is a recognition of the regional economy’s stark reliance on aviation.
This vast community of shared interests is populated by subcontractors and small companies with direct connections to Boeing. Add in other concentric rings of businesses that benefit from a well-paid workforce.
The other reality is on Boeing’s side of the table. Puget Sound represents an undeniable corporate asset: a trained, experienced and skilled team of workers in established plants and manufacturing investments, all complemented by a supportive political environment.
The management and labor dynamic that has combined to build the world’s best airplanes is present and thriving in Puget Sound.
Boeing workers are casting ballots to maintain everything their working relationship has provided for themselves, their families, the company and the community.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).