EVERETT – Governor Jay Inslee signed legislation package of tax incentives for the aerospace industry Monday, clearing the way for Boeing’s 777X to be built in Western Washington.
The only holdup is the vote of the Machinist’s Union, made up of roughly 20,000 local employees, which will take place Wednesday.
The local chapter’s leadership acknowledged Sunday that approval is not a done deal, and that there has been significant push back to the proposed eight year labor contract.
Ray Conner, the president and CEO for Boeing commercial, said the company is not bluffing about moving the production outside of Puget Sound. He added that the company has to make a decision quickly.
The Dubai Airshow takes place next week and if Boeing chose South Carolina for the production site, for example, they would need to begin production on a new facility.
Senator Patty Murray attended the signing. Murray said other states are watching negotiations on the 777X closely and would move in if the deal falls through.
Norm Kumma, a 24-year Boeing vet, says he has questions about what the deal will do to pensions, and the pay scale. He’s unsure how he will vote.
“It’s put me between a rock and a hard place. I've got a family and need to keep feeding my family and paying the mortgage,” said Kumma, in between frames at Glacier Lanes, near the Boeing Everett plant.
“Hitting us between contracts, and we still have a working contract, we have no leverage, we can’t strike, and walk the picket line to force a better deal.”
“I’m happy to have the job I have right now,” acknowledged newer Machinist Ron King, who wouldn’t tip his hand. “There is a lot of room for renegotiation, is how I feel.”
Washington lawmakers have moved swiftly to extend aerospace tax breaks in a bid to satisfy Boeing. The Legislature gave final approval Saturday of a bill to extend the tax incentives all the way to 2040. The benefits have a projected value of $9 billion.
Even though the tax breaks weren't set to expire for several more years, Gov. Jay Inslee called the Legislature back to Olympia this week for a special session dedicated to the Boeing bills. Along with the tax package, lawmakers voted to spend millions of dollars on worker-training programs and an effort to aid permitting for large aerospace manufacturing sites.
Inslee says the bills are necessary in order to win the manufacturing work that will come with Boeing's new 777X production.
But Union leadership signaled last week they were unsatisfied with the labor proposal. That prompted Boeing to suggest it could relocate work if Machinists rejected the deal. A formal vote is expected Wednesday.
“It’s take it or leave it, and it's a gamble. Are they bluffing we don't know. If they are, maybe another offer comes at you, if not, a lot of work goes away. It’s a scary thing,” added Kumma, who also said it is unclear in his mind, which way the vote will go. “They'll be 10 guys out they're screaming. There are 20 or 30 saying ssshhh I've voting yes, because it's, it's hard to say. I think it's going to be a close vote.”