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The Boeing Affair: It’s Complicated

Just as there was a divide between the local union and the national union, there was also a divide between Boeing Chicago and Boeing Puget Sound. (AP Photo/File)

Machinists are angry at Boeing. Here’s what one “no” voter had to say about the “yes” voters, who came out ahead by 600 votes on Friday, “They’re like scabs as far as I’m concerned. They’re like scabs to me. Maybe they don’t understand what was sacrificed for them to have what they have today.”

But here’s what most of the machinists probably don’t know.

Just as there was a divide between the local union and the national union, there was also a divide between Boeing Chicago and Boeing Puget Sound.

Boeing Chicago is run by Jim McNerney who does not like unions. He has an anti-union mindset that goes back a long way. If Washington state suddenly split off and floated away, he’d be happy. And the board backs him. It’s no secret they want to cut Washington loose.

And the local union officials are right: They were under immense pressure.

“Politicians, the media and others, who truly had no right to get into our business, were aligned against us and did their best to influence our folks’ vote,” said Jim Bearden with the Machinists Union.

But the local Boeing management was under pressure, too – the pension change was Chicago’s price for keeping the work here. And Chicago was not eager to give the union a second vote because after the first “no” vote, they could’ve pulled the work and blamed the union.

It was the Boeing managers in Puget Sound, working primarily with politicians in Snohomish County, who pushed for another vote.

And the machinists are right – it would have cost Boeing more to move the work, but like it or not, McNerney is the type of guy who would spend that money to teach the union a lesson. So your leadership had basically zero leverage, except for the politicians, the local Boeing management, and the national union reps trying to get this done.

Here’s something else you may not know: The local St. Louis machinists were ready to take this deal. The UAW in Detroit was ready to take this deal.

Bottom line – the union’s beef should be with Chicago, not the local Boeing management.

But that’s all in the past now. Today is Monday.

You’re not going to change people like McNerney or the Boeing board, but they do listen to the bottom line. And if Puget Sound’s factories run rings around South Carolina’s – there’s your leverage.

Here’s what TV news reported in St. Louis after the vote: “St. Louis has lost out on its bid to land the Boeing 777X and the results of a key union vote are in and all of that new work, all of those new jobs, are headed for Washington state.”

We came 600 votes from hearing that here. Reporters said, “Hopes were unfortunately dashed for Missouri and 21 other states that were trying to get the Boeing 777X.”

Which headline would you rather be hearing this morning?

Washington state leaders do not think Boeing was bluffing

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