Boeing surprise good for workers, company and state

Last week’s news that Boeing and its machinists have agreed to build the 737 MAX in Renton was just the shot in the arm this state needed. 

The tentative contract, which must be ratified by union members, settles the National Labor Relations Board dispute, calls for a 2 percent annual pay increase in each of the four years of the contract, awards machinists a $5,000 signing bonus and boosts pension benefits. The agreement was negotiated in secret and came as a shock because the accord was reached 10 months before the existing contract expires.

The good news for employees is the certainty of employment on the 737 MAX and a wage increase.

The good news for Boeing is that it settles the NLRB case in which the Chicago-based company was accused of illegally retaliating against the union when it chose South Carolina as the location of a second 787 assembly line in 2009.

The new contract is also good for Boeing because it ensures peace with its work force, negating the opportunity for an employee strike which would delay shipments of the popular airplane to Boeing’s many customers.

In one swoop, the agreement provides job security in Washington and ends the legal uncertainty of the NLRB lawsuit.

The good news for Washington  is that the Renton jobs are secure and state budget writers can stop fretting that Boeing will move the 787 MAX assembly to another state.

You can’t blame the state’s top elected officials for being elated at Wednesday’s surprise announcement.

You could almost hear Gov. Chris Gregoire breathe a sigh of relief.

In a prepared statement the governor said, “Washington state is, and will continue to be, the world’s premier center for aerospace known for building the safest and most innovative planes. In the last few years, I’m proud that Washington state has landed the 787, the Air Force refueling tanker, and now the 737 MAX.”

She put in a plug for additional spending to train future Boeing workers. “In this internationally competitive market, we must not take anything for granted,” Gregoire said. “I urge the Legislature to pass my action agenda I announced earlier ... that supports Boeing and our entire aerospace industry. A company’s success – and its ability to grow jobs – is dependent on the talent of its employees. The proposals I laid out will train the work force needed to ensure this critical industry expands now, and for generations to come.”

Washington’s two U.S. senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, were equally quick with a news release spelling out their joy.

“This is a tsunami-sized deal between Boeing and the machinists union,” Cantwell said. “It is a transformation of the relationship between the company and workers to focus on quality, performance, and incentives. This deal keeps jobs in the Northwest with the 737 MAX production and keeps the long-term skills set of building fuel-efficient planes in the Northwest. The Puget Sound area wins because it means the Northwest will continue to be the epicenter of aerospace jobs long into the future.”

The proposed labor pact could bring work on the Air Force tanker to the region.

Said Murray, “The ramifications of this news will be felt in businesses large and small, around kitchen tables, and in communities throughout the Puget Sound for years to come.”

She’s right. A number of South Sound residents are employed at Boeing or with contractors who supply Boeing with parts and technology. So this is good news for South Sound, too.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Jim Albaugh said, “If our employees ratify a new agreement, building the 737 MAX in Renton will secure a long and prosperous future there, as well as at other sites in the Puget Sound area and in Portland, Ore., where 737 parts are built.”

Union leaders promised a swift vote on the contract this week.

Let’s hope the machinists are as excited about the proposed labor agreement as are elected officials and other Washington residents. If they ratify the agreement – and they should – Christmas will have come early to the state of Washington.

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2011/12/04/1900802/boeing-surprise-good-for-workers.html#storylink=cpy