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Touchdown Machinists!

They easily turned down Boeing's Buy-It-Now price for building the 777X here. Sixty-seven percent voted "no" on a contract that would have wound down the pension plan, raised health care costs, and limited wage increases. (KIRO Radio Photo/Chris Sullivan)

So I guess if it was a football game, it would have to be Touchdown Machinists.

They easily turned down Boeing’s Buy-It-Now price for building the 777X here.

Sixty-seven percent voted “no” on a contract that would have wound down the pension plan, raised health care costs, and limited wage increases.

“This was about driving a wedge between our membership and our leadership and busting the union. And it did that; it drove that wedge,” said machinist Wilson Ferguson. “There are a lot of angry, frustrated people right now.”

In fact, union members even booed their union leadership Wednesday night.

The officers scurried away without making a statement.

Were the machinists being greedy? Not according to Ferguson.

“We’re not asking for the world. When they’re doing well, we think we should share in some of that prosperity; just a tiny portion of that. We represent four percent of the cost of the airplane. Four percent. I think that might be (Boeing CEO Jim) McNerney’s wage.”

I’ve certainly heard that sentiment in some of the emails I’ve received. That it’s not the guys making $38 an hour who are being greedy, it’s Boeing CEO Jim McNerney who saw his compensation jump (with Boeing’s stock price) by 20 percent to $27.5 million last year.

There’s something the Legislature could do to mollify the union: pass a law that cuts Jim McNerney’s salary and gives it to the workers.

Let’s see, $27.5 million divided among 22,000 workers. That would be $1,250 each. Hmmm. They just turned down a signing bonus of $10,000 each, so that’s not going to work.

So now what? The governor says the state isn’t giving up; he thinks he still has a compelling case for building the 777X here.

“The place to do it is in the state of Washington,” said Inslee. “We’re going to continue to talk about that with the Boeing company to make sure that they look at those strengths.”

Maybe customers will agree. Boeing will launch the 777X with a big order from Emirates Airways at the Dubai Air Show next week. Maybe the Emirates will urge Boeing to build it where the current 777 is being built, given the embarrassing delays that outsourcing the 787 caused.

But from what I hear, Boeing management believes it has learned from the 787 outsourcing debacle and thinks it can build the 777X anywhere. It turns out that those 787’s being built in South Carolina fly just fine.

So what else can the state offer?

What Boeing management really wants is labor peace – to be able to guarantee to customers that strikes will never again delay an airplane delivery.

When the current contract is up and Boeing comes back with another offer that tries to bring down labor costs, that smells like another strike. Boeing says it will not negotiate with the Machinists until the contract is up in 2016. Which means about the only thing the Legislature could do to convince Boeing it could continue to operate would be to make Washington a right-to-work state.

That’s a vote that would end the career of any Democrat who voted for it. But what else is there?

You might be able to come up with a formula that only applies right-to-work to high-paying companies like Boeing so that lower wage workers could still have the protection of a closed shop.

The only other way to attack this would be for the union to get busy and organize workers in South Carolina and Utah so that there’s no wage advantage.

As I understand the system, Boeing headquarters will now ask managers at their various facilities to bid for the work based on what it will cost to build the plane there. So if the Machinists can unionize those places and get higher wages, it would change those bids.

In the meantime, Boeing management has said they will open the 777X up for bid as early as Thursday.

Read more:
Boeing Machinists overwhelmingly reject 777X contract proposal
Why Machinists held out to protect their pensions
Handicapping the competition: Long Beach a likely contender for Boeing 777X

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