When you see members of the International Association of Machinists District 751, give them a pat on the back.
The union’s narrow approval of a Boeing contract extension on Friday night was tough but necessary, for its economic future and for the region’s.
Approval means the Puget Sound continues to have a manufacturing core that is the envy of the nation.
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.
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The vote also assured a blue-collar workforce with wages of $82,000 at the top end of the most common job class, and increases above cost-of-living, for the next 11 years. Compared with Boeing’s offer rejected by the union in December, this contract is $1 billion richer.
The contract did require concessions in retirement benefits. Despite militant opposition by Local 751 leadership, a narrow majority of machinists admirably recognized the economic realities of the fiercely competitive aerospace industry.
Thanks should also go to local, elected leaders, including Ray Stephanson, Denis Law, Suzette Cooke, the mayors of Everett, Renton and Kent respectively; and Snohomish County executive John Lovick, who risked the wrath of union leadership to publicly urge this outcome. That’s leadership.
The state Legislature also deserves credit for doing its part, in a special session last year, by approving a generous but tightly-written tax-incentive package that evaporates if Boeing moves any 777X production out of state.
These actions ensure Boeing will reinvest in its hometown. The company has been backing away since transplanting its headquarters to Chicago in 2001.
Had machinists voted no on Friday, there is no reason to believe 777X production also would not fly away.
Instead, the Machinists’ difficult decision assures that a century of plane building in the Puget Sound continues, with carbon-fiber technology unimaginable when Bill Boeing launched his first seaplane.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, Lynne K. Varner, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).