Timing of Boeing groundbreaking adds pressure to machinists



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Posted on November 12, 2013 at 1:25 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 12 at 10:01 PM

SEATTLE -- The pressure is on Boeing and its machinists as they countdown to the hours until a critical vote on a new contract to build Boeing's next big plane, the 777X.

There's new concern that the 30,000 workers will reject a new contract, possibly sending 777X production to South Carolina, where Boeing just broke ground on another manufacturing plant on Tuesday.

The timing of the groundbreaking of Boeing's new facility in North Charleston adds more pressure from Boeing. The company will build engine parts for its 737 Max at the new facility, located near the existing 787 plant.
Could production of Boeing's 777X be next for North Charleston? The 30,000-plus members of the Machinists Union in Puget Sound could decide with Wednesday's vote on a new eight-year contract proposal.

A yes vote would mean tens of thousands of direct jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue with the new 777X, but workers are unhappy that Boeing's eight-year deal removes pension benefits and raises health care costs.

Machinists, like Dan Erskine, say even younger workers who may find the $10,000 signing bonus are not happy.

"It's gonna be a no vote in my mind," said Erskine. "I think we have plenty of support for that."

Eriskine, who was also involved in contract talks for the 787, says he is seeing more younger members vowing to vote no, despite a tempting $10,000 signing bonus.

Industry analysts say even if workers reject the contract at the union halls Wednesday, Boeing could compromise and find a way to stay because it's much harder to start from scratch in another city.

Boeing CEO Ray Conner indicates a move is real, and Reuters reports that Boeing executives are also considering 777X production in Japan if Machinists reject the deal - a possible future move for the company that will become more clear when union votes are tallied Wednesday.

Results of the Machinists Union vote should come in sometime late Wednesday.

On Monday, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed a new law giving Boeing $9 billion in incentives to try and land 777X production.