LOS ANGELES A
tentative agreement between Boeing Co. and its largest union
would ensure that production of the newest version of the 777
airliner, as well as its planned new wing, remains in the
Pacific Northwests Puget Sound regionbut it
includes a big trade-off for the companys work force.
about 35,000 members of the International Association of
Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) union are due to vote
Nov. 13 on a package that would extend the unions labor
agreement with the parent companys Seattle-based Boeing
Commercial Airplanes (BCA) unit into 2024, eight years beyond
the current expiration of 2016.
"If this contract is
ratified, new buildings totaling over one-and-a-half million
square feet will be built to house the 777X final assembly and
777X wing production securing wide-body production in Everett
(Wash.)," IAM District 751 president Tom Wroblewski and
assistant directing business representative Robert C. Petroff
said in a statement.
An IAM spokesman this
week emphasized the importance of the proposed new agreement to
the future of Boeing and its work force.
"The 777 is not the
end of an aircraft line but the beginning of the next
generation of aircraft manufacturing," he said. The wing of the
777X will be built with composites in contrast to the current
versions aluminum wing.
The 777 is considered
among the largest commercial aircraft consumers of titanium,
accounting for about 150,000 pounds of buy weight, including
both the airframe and engines. This amount could rise with the
777X, since the new composite may contain additional titanium,
which is generally more compatible with composites than
aluminum, although the wings material makeup is yet to be
BCA president and
chief executive officer Ray Conner said the contract extension
would secure "thousands of high-wage, high-skilled aerospace
jobs" in the Puget Sound and Portland, Ore., regions.
Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to ask the state legislature to
approve a package of bills that would reportedly save Boeing
about $8.7 billion and encourage the company to build the 777X
and the new wing in the Seattle area.
whose 777 production rate stands at 8.3 per month, has more
than 80,000 employees in Washington State, a BCA spokesman in
Seattle said. An IAM spokesman said about 3,000 members of the
union are on the 777 line.
While IAM members
would receive a $10,000 signing bonus if the contract is
approved, the agreement would relinquish a feature the union
has fought hard to retain in recent years. New hires would no
longer have a traditional defined benefit retirement pension,
but will instead have a 401(k)-type retirement plan. Moreover,
while employees would retain previously accumulated defined
benefits, their ongoing pensions would also be included under
the new plan.
presented to the members as a choice where Boeing is saying,
This considerable amount of work can be
yours, " an IAM spokesman said. "However, it comes
with a price."
observers said the road to the proposed agreement probably
began in 2008, with a bitter two-month strike by nearly 27,000
IAM members that was settled in November of that year. While
the union at that time preserved the traditional retirement
plan plus other features, Boeing emphasized that it "retained
the flexibility necessary to manage its business" (
amm.com, Oct. 28, 2008).
The full significance
of Boeings intentions became clear to the union in 2009,
when Boeing decided to build its next major final assembly
plant in North Charleston, S.C., after the work force there
voted against union representation. Boeing-South Carolina now
houses one of two final assembly sites for the companys
Boeing evidently made
its point with the Charleston expansion. About two years ago,
the company signed a new four-year agreement with the IAM that
would ensure production of its top-selling 737 single-aisle
airlinerincluding the new, re-engined 737 MAX version due
to enter service in 2017would continue in Renton, Wash.
amm.com, Dec. 9, 2011).