Future In Balance: Boeing Machinists Prepare To Vote Again

Jan 3, 2014

The local union posted this image of machinists opposed to Boeing's contract. The machinists are scheduled to vote on the contract at 8 p.m. on Friday.
The local union posted this image of machinists opposed to Boeing's contract. The machinists are scheduled to vote on the contract at 8 p.m. on Friday.
Credit IAM District 751’s Facebook page

Boeing machinists will vote Friday evening on a contract for the second time, and this time, the aerospace giant has made it clear that a yes vote guarantees Washington will keep production of the 777X in state.

At stake are thousands of jobs and possibly Boeing’s future in the region. Vote results are expected after 8 p.m. on Friday.  

The Machinists Union voted down the first proposed contract in November, frustrated with reduced health and retirement benefits. But since then, union members have become increasingly divided, with some continuing the “vote no” chant refrain, and others demanding another vote.

At the union hall in south Seattle, machinists rallied against the contract, yelling, “Hell no, hell no,” and “Vote no, vote no.”

Said one machinist of his employer: “They are rolling in money. There is no excuse for this except that they can. So I’d just like to say, ‘Screw you, Boeing.’ If Boeing leaves, that’s their problem.”

Given the pressure to vote against the contract, few machinists admit that they're going to vote in favor. But Chan Soth said he's going to yes because he doesn't want Boeing to leave the state.

“People that are voting no are more majority of people who have been here 15 to 20 years. They’re trying to keep the union thing going for as long as they can," Soth said. "For coming from outside of Boeing, I’ve been in the aerospace business for about 20 years. I’ve been in smaller companies, and it’s harder to get as good paying jobs and benefits, outside of Boeing.”

If the machinists vote down the contract, it doesn’t mean for sure that production of the popular jet will go to another state. That’s up to Boeing, although the company has hinted at its plans.

Bob Drewell, executive director of the Puget Sound Regional Council, told machinists earlier this week: “What we know now is that should the vote not pass, that the wing will not be built here.”

The wing is supposed to be the lynchpin – proof that Boeing is keeping its cutting-edge projects here.

But Boeing analyst Richard Aboulafia doesn’t see it that way. He said Japan already builds the Dreamliner’s carbon fiber wing, but that Japan doesn’t appear to be in the running for the wing this time.

Most of the 20,000 jobs tied to the 777X are tied to the rest of the plane. Boeing is expected to announce where the plane will be built shortly after the vote.

It says the only guarantee is that if the union votes “yes,” Washington gets to build the entire plane.

Scott Hamilton, a Boeing analyst at Leeham Co. near Seattle, said there’s another guarantee: Next time Boeing plans on building another plane, “we are going to go through this all over again.”