Boeing777X_K659271.jpg
Boeing Machinists will vote Wednesday on a proposed new agreement to build the upcoming 777X in Washington state. But many union members remain vehemently opposed. (Boeing image)

Leaders make last ditch plea for Boeing deal as Machinists remain defiant

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick are urging Machinists union members to approve the proposed contract extension with Boeing to make sure the 777X is built in the Puget Sound area. But plenty of union members say they aren't swayed by the plea.

"So much depends on this vote," said Lovick. "The nation and the world are watching to see what happens. Our competitors will take advantage of any opportunity to move ahead of us."

Boeing officials have promised to build the next generation jet in Washington state if union members approve a new eight-year contract extension. Governor Jay Inslee signed several tax breaks and other incentives for Boeing into law Monday.

Union members say Boeing's demands for concessions on health care and pension equates to extortion.

"It is not an extension. It is a whole new contract," says one Boeing machinist who spoke with KIRO Radio on condition of anonymity via phone from the Everett plant, where she works on the 777. "It guts our contract. It leaves us no room for anything, ever."

The structures mechanic says along with elimination of the company pension plan in favor of a 401(k), workers are most angry with what amounts to just a six percent raise total over the next 10 years, while the top five executives received a 55 percent raise last year.

"(CEO Jim) McNerney's now making $27 million and they want to begrudge us our little pension," she says.

Both leaders acknowledged the proposal requires some concessions by union members, but argue it's a competitive offer that provides security for the company, its employees, and the rest of the state.

"This vote is about securing legacy jobs - jobs that matter to this generation and the next. A yes vote shows the world that Snohomish County is the best place to build the 777X," said Lovick.

Ray Conner, Boeing Commercial Airplane CEO, said Monday at the bill signing with Governor Inslee that the company was not bluffing about building the 777X elsewhere if Machinists vote against the contract extension Wednesday.

But the Machinist who spoke with KIRO says many union members don't believe him, equating it to a game of "high-stakes poker."

"You ever play high-stakes poker? You don't tell them that you're bluffing," she says. "South Carolina ain't [sic] cutting it."

Despite the opposition by many longtime members, she says the feeling on the shop floor is the vote will be extremely close.

"We have lots and lots of new guys who are young men with families and they are scared to death because that's how they [Boeing] want you to be."

She says the proposed $10,000 signing bonus promised by Boeing is a big incentive, especially so close to the holidays. "This is just a mean little game by these guys because when you're 25 or 35, you don't see down the road."

The Machinists will cast ballots at union halls throughout the day Wednesday. The results are expected to be announced some time after 9 p.m. We'll have complete coverage on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM and MyNorthwest.com.


Josh Kerns, MyNorthwest.com
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for MyNorthwest.com.
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