Late Wednesday night, the last of the votes was counted. Boeing’s union members rejected an extension of their contracts to build the company’s newest 777x line of aircraft–claiming that changes the company requested be made in their retirement benefits were too harsh.
Boeing Commercial’s CEO has for weeks threatened that if the union members did not accept the contract extension and the retirement plan changes, he would cancel the company’s plans to build the 777x in Washington state and build a new plant in South Carolina.
Assuming it wasn’t a bluff (which he’s denied adamantly) and that the union leadership doesn’t manage to eke out some sort of working deal and get the contracts extended quickly, it looks like the Seattle area is about to lose a major new business, and South Carolina is about to get a lot more jobs.
Let’s back up.
The machinists found themselves faced with a decision over the last week: They could vote against the proposed changes to their retirement plans and risk the Boeing company (and its jobs) relocating to South Carolina or accepting cuts in exchange for Boeing’s continued presence.
I would have loved to have been a fly on the walls of those machinist’s homes as they stood around with their family and debated the vote among one another. I can’t even fathom the pressure those families felt as they considered the issue. These several individuals had to get up this morning and basically decide the future of one of the state’s largest employers/industries–I just had to decide which jacket I wanted to wear.
How does a person make a decision like this?
Fortunately for me, I have no idea.
I suppose there is something to be said for standing your moral ground with a steadfast refusal to compromise, but the case could also be made that pragmatism does have its own time and place. When and why do you make either call?
The government had already made substantial concessions to the company: Governor Inslee signed a bill passing on nearly $9 billion in tax breaks for the company if the 777x plant was constructed in Seattle, a move which the public largely supported according to polls.
A slight majority of the public also, in polls, declared that the union should accept Boeing’s contract changes in hopes of convincing the company to keep its production here.
Oh! In the end, I went with a peacoat. I ended up being a bit too toasty, but I’m happy to report that the rest of my jackets remain in the coat closet where they belong–far away from South Carolina.