International Association of Machinists members voted 67% against a deal that had been tentatively agreed between union leaders and the Boeing Company. The contract would have secured an estimated 20 years of work building Boeing’s 777X at the company’s main production site in Everett, Washington, but a which would have radically altered their pension plan and raised their healthcare costs.
This morning, after the votes had been counted, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner said: “Without the terms of this contract extension, we’re left with no choice but to open the process competitively and pursue all options for the 777X.”
What this means in real terms is not clear. Boeing has several facilities in the US where it could, in theory, move 777X production. (The likeliest may be the facility in Long Beach, California, where the company is currently winding down C-17 production.) But moving to a completely new site and training a new workforce opens the door to all manner of disasters, and the company obviously would have preferred to simply transition from 777 to 777X production at Everett.
So, now what? Maybe it is time for everybody to step back and take a look at what is at stake. And to consider that neither side can “win” unless the other wins as well.