From today’s Los Angeles Times, “Boeing families in Seattle area feel spurned over 777X project: The aerospace giant threatens to build its newest airliner out of state unless a union approves concessions. Some workers have generations of history there“:
MILL CREEK, Wash. — Shannon Ryker is a third-generation employee of aerospace giant Boeing Co. She followed her grandfather into the huge plant in nearby Everett. And her father. And her Uncle Bob.
Her youngest sister worked at Boeing until she became pregnant. Both of Ryker’s brothers-in-law and one of their dads work there. Her other sister’s stepson has applied for a Boeing job.
So it wasn’t easy for the 37-year-old mechanic to sit down in her crowded apartment here on a recent Sunday and write to Boeing management about her growing disappointment.
“Like my 86-year-old grandmother, I would like to tell my children and grandchildren that ‘Boeing has been good to this family,'” Ryker wrote in an open letter that has since landed on company break-room tables and in co-workers’ email in-boxes. But now, she said, “I no longer can hold my head high and say I am proud to work at Boeing.”
At issue is the company’s hunt for a site to build its newest airliner, the 777X. Ryker and other members of the International Assn. of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751 overwhelmingly voted last month to reject a contract that would have cut some pension plans and healthcare benefits but guaranteed the program would stay in the Pacific Northwest.
Since the vote, Washington’s largest private employer has been looking elsewhere for a site to build the plane, a potential move that threatens the state economy and the middle class Boeing helped create.
The company’s decision reflects the hard realities of the industry and the latest skirmish in the fight for union survival. Boeing says the contract concessions are essential to compete financially with its longtime European rival Airbus, which plans to deliver its own new twin-aisle jetliner next year….
Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Raymond L. Conner laid out the stakes in a letter to workers before the Nov. 13 union vote on the 777X, an essential part of the company’s long-term product strategy. “What we want to avoid is that we become one of the companies that made decisions too late to remain competitive in the marketplace,” he wrote.
Boeing gave other states until Tuesday to submit proposals to build the wide-body’s latest generation. Within days of the union vote, California, Missouri and Texas made appeals to Boeing in an attempt to snag the program.
The company joins a long line of manufacturers and municipalities that have sought to wring concessions from unions that once negotiated comfortable pensions and wages.
After a bitter strike in 2008, the company shipped much of the work on its 787 Dreamliner to South Carolina, a right-to-work state. Seven years earlier, it moved its headquarters from Seattle to Chicago. Its Washington workforce is more than 83,000 strong, but there are fears that the company’s future is elsewhere.
“If Boeing doesn’t build the 777X here, this could be the start of a long, steady decline of the company’s presence here,” said Scott Hamilton, an aviation industry consultant who figures Boeing could be gone by 2030, based on backlogs and production rates.