SEATTLE — By a 2-to-1 margin, Machinists union members in the Puget Sound region Wednesday rejected Boeing’s proposed eight-year contract extension that would have cut pension and other benefits in exchange for Boeing’s commitment to build the planned 777X airliner and its advanced-technology wing in Washington state.
Sixty-seven percent of those 31,000 union members in the region voted no on the proposed contract extension, the union announced Wednesday night.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner said after the vote: “We are very disappointed in the outcome of the union vote … But without the terms of this contract extension, we’re left with no choice but to open the process competitively and pursue all options for the 777X.”
At a news conference in Olympia after the vote, Gov. Jay Inslee said Boeing told him the company would consider “multiple sites, including Washington” for the assembly of the new airliner and that he wasn’t about to give up in trying to gain the 777X production in the state.
“We intend to be competitive in the weeks to come,” Inslee said. “We know how to compete in the state of Washington.”
He added, “We could have won this tonight without any competition (but) that didn’t happen.”
Tom Wroblewski, spokesman for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751, issued the following statement:
“Today, the democratic process worked and our members made the decision to not accept the company’s proposal. It is my belief that we represent the best aerospace workforce in the world and hope that as a result of this vote Boeing will not discard our skills when looking to place the 777X.
“We preserved something sacred by rejecting the Boeing proposal. We’ve held on to our pensions and that’s big. At a time when financial planners are talking about a ‘retirement crisis’ in America, we have preserved a tool that will help our members retire with more comfort and dignity.”
As workers were casting votes Wednesday afternoon, one of the 31,000 Machinists union members in the region, Randy McFadden, said at the union hall voting site: “Boeing is asking us to get rid of all the things we worked 20 years for — flush it down, just so they can make more money.”
Another worker called Boeing’s offer “an extortion, a take-it-or-leave-it thing. I’m not going for it.”
Camy Badr, the owner of Good Guys Pizza near the Boeing plant in Everett, said he’s worried about what might happen if Boeing lives up to that threat to move business elsewhere.
“During the last strike, business dropped 30 percent,” Badr said. “The economy is just picking up and I depend on Boeing workers a lot.”
Snohomish County Executive John Lovick said losing the 777X work and thousands of jobs to another state would be devastating.
“We are talking about an economy that is very fragile right now,” Lovick said. “And the fact that we would be taking those jobs out of this region, it would be huge to Snohomish County.”
On Monday, Inslee signed a bill into law that gives billions in tax breaks for Boeing — a move to sweeten the deal for the company to produce the 777X here.
The production of this new, efficient aircraft would secure at least 56,000 jobs and more than two decades of work, analysts have projected.
Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., issued this statement following the union’s vote:
“I believe Washington is still the best place to build the 777X, but the hill just got steeper. We now need to be prepared for an intense competition with other states and countries that want these jobs.”