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Originally published December 13, 2013 at 12:31 PM | Page modified December 13, 2013 at 1:36 PM

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Editorial: Another 777X vote, of course

Give Boeing Machinists another chance to consider changes in the eight-year contract they voted down last month. Deal with dynamic conditions.


Seattle Times Editorial

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GIVEN a chance to vote, rank-and-file members of the Machinists union should acknowledge the changes in their industry, and embrace the opportunity for long-term employment in Puget Sound.

Securing the jobs to build the 777X and sustaining the workforce for final assembly of the 737 MAX are basic goals for current and future union members. Without those jobs, all the frustrations with contract changes are moot.

Give Boeing workers a chance to reconsider the contract they voted down last month, and to reconsider the adjustments offered by the company.

The current confusion over the status of recent talks does no one any good. Some clarity please. Is Boeing’s final offer in play?

Workers were apparently offered another $5,000 on top of a $10,000 signing bonus. The extra money would come in 2020. An earlier proposal to stretch out the time it took workers to reach the top pay grade was dropped.

Traditional pensions would still be frozen, but the annual benefits of a defined contribution plan were sweetened.

Medical and dental plans are tweaked over the life of the contract. Nothing other workers in the national economy have not seen, and without the pay raises the Machinists would receive.

Union leaders grumbling about the fundamental unfairness of the deal, even with potential adjustments, are not being straight with workers. They are behaving as if their membership has significant leverage in getting this new work.

Yes, Boeing workers in Puget Sound and around Washington produce quality airplanes. No one argues the point. Boeing has established investments here in plants and equipment that would have to be duplicated elsewhere. Management has made some epic and expensive miscalculations.

Yet the nature of the work and the industry is changing. The company can move jobs across this country and offshore. If management is willing to absorb the startup costs, their number crunchers will argue the relocations pay for themselves over time.

Boeing is moving jobs around; the latest flurry dealing with research. Engineers were shuffled earlier.

The mobility for fabrication and assembly workers is less, and the chances of replacing Boeing-level pay and benefits locally is even slimmer.

The contract — that union members may or may not get to vote on — is presented in the context of employment opportunities and working conditions in 2013.

Embracing the reality of changing economic conditions is not about capitulation. It is a contemporary recognition of what is — right now, and over the next eight years.

Give some of the nation’s most highly skilled workers a chance to make up their own minds.




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