Boeing offers bonuses up to $10,000 as it searches for scarce talent

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By Bryan Corliss

April 17, 2023, © Leeham News: The Boeing Co., which has talked of making significant production rate increases “very soon,” is offering bonuses of up to $10,000 as it recruits workers in touch-labor positions in both South Carolina and Puget Sound.

In Charleston, Boeing is offering $5,000 signing bonuses specifically for experienced painters and interiors installers as it tries to first stabilize, then increase, production of 787s. Boeing wants to reach a rate of 5/mo by the end of this year and 10/mo by 2025/26.

In Puget Sound, the company isn’t offering signing bonuses, but it is offering hefty payouts of up to $10,000 to current employees who refer experienced aerospace workers to openings in a number of job categories, including structures mechanics and general machinists.

The moves come as analysts continue to sound alarms about workforce shortages across the industry. 

“We continue to remain cautious on the supply chain’s ability to support the planned production rate increases in 2H23 and into 2024,” wrote Ken Herbert, with RBC Capital Markets, in a report earlier this week. “We continue to see labor availability and training as the largest headwind facing the sector.”


  • Boeing hiring as it prepares to ramp up
  • Boeing offers hiring incentives
  • Northwest aerospace labor market is tight
  • S. Carolina: Lockheed-Martin offers $10K
Boeing hiring as it prepares to ramp up

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Stan Deal said last month that his business unit plans to increase production of 737s to 38 a month “very soon.” That would be an increase from the current announced rate of 31. Bloomberg News reported that this goal is in July.

That, of course, is dependent on a couple of major factors: Whether the 737 supply chain can keep pace, and whether Boeing can find enough workers to adequately staff the Renton final assembly line, and associated 737 work sites in Auburn, Everett and Frederickson. 

The company has announced plans to hire 10,000 new workers nationwide this year.

In Wichita, Spirit AeroSystems offered jobs on the spot to some 700 people who came to a company job fair, with many of them receiving $3,000 hiring bonuses. 

Meanwhile, Washington state aerospace companies have hired 5,000 workers in the past year, according to the most-recent report from the state’s Employment Security Department, from February. 

Insiders tell LNA that Boeing has been bringing in between 75 and 100 new hourly workers a week for the past few months. 

Despite that influx, the company still is hiring in the Seattle area, with openings in 375 job categories posted on its website earlier this week. It’s looking for everything from senior manufacturing managers to project leaders to electronics techs and a range of mechanics and installers on the factory floor.

Boeing offers hiring incentives

To get more experienced workers to apply, Boeing is offering current employees referral bonuses of between $2,500 to $10,000, whenever someone they recommended for a job is hired. (Managers, executives and employees involved with hiring are exempted.)

HR professionals say the referral bonuses help companies find experienced people who may not be actively seeking new work. 

However, the current Boeing bonuses are well above what is typical for this type of employee incentive program. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, the majority of companies offering referral bonuses paid out between $1,000 and $2,499 in 2021. 

Boeing’s $10,000 payouts are going for successfully hired structures mechanics, fuel tank mechanics, machine repair mechanics, electronics techs and general machinists. 

Boeing also is offering $6,000 bonuses for people who can refer experienced maintenance plumbers and air conditioning techs for its buildings, and $3,500 for industrial waste treatment operators.

There are $2,500 bonuses for referring people to fill more-common factory jobs like “Assembler/Installer B,” which is a catch-all category for any number of people who work directly on airplanes, and for different categories of inspectors, painters and quality control personnel.

Northwest aerospace labor market is tight

However, Boeing is not the only Northwest aerospace company hiring. Later this month, at least five aerospace suppliers and a temporary services recruiting company will take resumes from aerospace workers at a job fair in Everett  

They looking to fill about 100 jobs, and most of them are looking for the same kinds of workers – CNC machinists, experienced electronics techs and structures installers in particular. 

To compete, most of the suppliers aren’t trying to match the maximum pay levels specified in Boeing’s contract with the Machinists Union, but they are offering starting pay that is $5 to $10 an hour above the starting pay for union members doing similar work at Boeing. And one – Damar Aerosystems, an aerostructures supplier that’s a subsidiary of Senior Aerospace – is offering a $5,000 signing bonus to new hires in certain jobs. 

Some suppliers at this year’s Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference talked of a need to raise pay across-the-board at many lower-tier aerospace companies, which in the past have offered wages competitive with entry-level retail jobs

South Carolina: Lockheed-Martin offers $20K bonuses

Boeing also faces a competitive labor market in South Carolina, where – as we’ve previously reported – the company is expected to increase delivery rates on the 787 line to five a month by the end of this year.

The South Carolina aerospace cluster is small by Northwest standards. Boeing’s the largest employer, and its total Charleston employment is about a third of the number of people the company employs at Everett, which is one of four major sites Boeing operates around Puget Sound. There are a few suppliers in and around Charleston, the largest employing upwards of 100 people each. 

However, Boeing is competing for labor with Daimler, which assembles Sprinter vans for the U.S. market at two suburban Charleston plants. It also faces competition from Lockheed-Martin and Honeywell, which have aerospace facilities about three hours away, in and around Greenville, S.C. (LM both assembles and maintains F-16s at Greenville; Honeywell operates an MRO base in nearby Greer.) 

The competition seems fierce.

Lockheed-Martin’s workforce went from 800 to 1,100 last year, and in January 2022, the company started offering $2,000 sign-on bonuses for airframe and powerplant mechanics, structures mechanics, avionics techs, painters, quality inspectors and tool makers.

LM has steadily bumped up its sign-on bonus offer, and it currently is offering $20,000 signing bonuses, along with up to $5,000 in relocation expenses, for mechanics willing to move to the small city at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. 

Aircraft painters in Greenville can make $25 to $29 an hour depending on experience, according to one temp agency’s current job posting; a $20,000 bonus would be almost 40% of one year’s pay.

To counter that, Boeing is offering $5,000 sign-on bonuses for painters and interiors installers, and is using temp agencies to scour for qualified candidates. Boeing even held a job fair in Mobile last year, trying to lure experienced Airbus workers for engineering, manufacturing and supply chain management roles. (An Airbus insider told LNA that the company is losing some employees who have gone through training, only to quit for other jobs.)

One current job listing at a national aerospace worker temp agency shows aerostructures mechanics with more than four years’ experience can work as contractors for up to $40 an hour at Charleston. Another agency is quoting pay up to $38.56 an hour for contract assemblers with 10 years’ experience. Aircraft painters with at least one year of experience can earn up to $29 as temp contractors in Charleston.

Coming close to union wages

Those pay levels are getting close to what Boeing pays its unionized workers in Puget Sound. Grade 5 aerostructures mechanics in Puget Sound make $42.89 with six year’s experience; experienced Grade 4 assemblers make $41.71 an hour. (The contractors don’t receive benefits, however, and the IAM benefits package at Boeing is very good.)

One company that isn’t offering sign-on bonuses is Airbus. 

While the company is hiring 13,000 workers globally this year – and has current  U.S. openings in 193 job categories – it has not announced plans for any recruitment incentives. 

The takeaway: Boeing is not immune from the talent shortage impacting the rest of the industry, and is having to spend more to attract and retain experienced workers. This potentially could impact the company’s ability to hit its increased production targets in the near term, as well as potentially affecting profit margins. 

‘What kind of vision is that?’ Industry analysts scorch Boeing and CEO Calhoun

By Bryan Corliss

Feb. 7, 2023, © Leeham News – Less than a week after Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun stood in the company’s Everett factory and vowed to “maintain this leadership culture forever,” a panel of top aerospace industry analysts blasted Boeing’s corporate culture and criticized Calhoun’s leadership, saying he lacks vision, industry knowledge – even charisma.

Aerospace analyst Kevin Michaels.

“No new aircraft until 2035,” said AeroDynamic Advisory Managing Director Kevin Michaels. “What kind of vision is that?”

Having Calhoun at the helm of Boeing at this juncture is “the worst-case scenario,” said Michaels’ partner at AeroDynamic, Richard Aboulafia. “(Calhoun) is somebody not only not from this industry, but someone who maintains a willful ignorance of it.” 

The challenges Boeing faces mending fences with all the groups it has disappointed or alienated in the past 20 years – customers, suppliers, regulators and workers – are immense and it may be more than one person can handle, said Bank of America Managing Director Ron Epstein, who also was on the panel. 

“It’s a hard, hard, hard job right now, to be the president of the Boeing Co.,” Epstein said. 

  • Panel rips lack of new product development
  • Without a new airplane, whole industry is challenged
  • Panel: Boeing struggles to retain engineering talent
  • Michaels: Suppliers in ‘crisis’

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Boeing should build 757 replacement in Washington


Dec. 22, 2020, © Leeham News: If you get a chance over the next few weeks – in between binge-watching The Queen’s Gambit, putting up the 79 extra feet of Christmas lights you ordered this year and figuring out how to buy surprise Christmas gifts for your spouse when you have a joint Amazon account – you should take 90 minutes to watch this video from our friends at the International Association of Machinists District Lodge 751.

By Bryan Corliss

The Machinists on Dec. 8 hosted (on Zoom, of course) a high-level panel discussion about the state of the aerospace industry and Washington state’s role in it, featuring a whole bunch of Brand-Name People Who are Smarter Than Me(c).

They shared their insights for those of us coffee-drinkers who are trying to read the tea leaves to divine what Boeing’s next moves should be as it tries to get back on its feet – and what the implications are for its home state.

The takeaway:

The problems for Boeing are obvious, and the solutions are pretty clear – but doing the smart thing would require a major cultural shift from an executive team that’s locked into a 1990s vision of how business gets done.

  • Boeing needs a 757 replacement this decade
  • It should get built in Washington state
  • There are concrete – and audacious – steps for the state to take
  • Can GE alum Calhoun change Boeing’s GE culture?

    Buzz about Boeing’s next new airplane returned this month to making a 757 replacement. Boeing photo.

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2024 will be key year for Boeing in Washington

This is the second in a series of articles examining how labor, Boeing and Washington state could move forward following the COVID pandemic. The first article is here.

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By Bryan Corliss



Nov. 30, 2020, © Leeham News — You might want to set yourself an Outlook calendar reminder for January 2024.

It’s going to be a pivotal year for Boeing, its home state and its workforce. By then, the company’s recovery from the current Covid-caused crisis should be underway, with the order book refilling.

The countdown should be on for the long-delayed roll-out of the reconceived NMA, at long last giving Boeing a real counter to the Airbus A321. And — barring a surge in 737 MAX orders after its return to service — Boeing could be close to making some tough decisions about the future of the 737 program, thinking hard about whether after 60 years it’s finally time to design and build a clean-sheet replacement.

Also by then, the 787 program will have fully consolidated into Charleston, and the last 747 will have departed the Paine Field flight line, leaving The World’s Largest Building (By Volume) half-empty.

Then, in January 2024, Boeing’s contract with its touch-labor union – IAM District 751 – will expire, after a 10-year extension that was part of the price Machinists paid to ensure the 777X would be assembled in Everett. For the first time since the summer of 2008, the two sides will sit down at a bargaining table with the union having the ability to call for a strike.

What happens between now and January 2024 will pretty much decide the future of Boeing in Washington state. If the players are clear-eyed and rational, we could see a return to the days when high-skilled workers built high-quality planes that created handsome profits for Boeing shareholders and family-wage jobs for Boeing workers.

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Gov. Inslee misses the point in his pique over Boeing 787 production decision

By Scott Hamilton


Oct. 5, 2020, © Leeham News: The contrast in tones couldn’t be sharper.

With the announcement last Thursday by Boeing it will consolidate 787 production from Everett into Charleston, local political leaders were disappointed but understanding and even sympathetic.

Gov. Jay Inslee

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin likened Boeing to a family member who was in crisis. Hard decisions by Boeing were made, but in a crisis, you must. Support your family. Understand the situation. Figure out how to make the best of it to move forward.

On the other hand, Gov. Jay Inslee vowed to review the state’s relationship with Boeing and tax breaks granted to the company. Inslee claimed understanding but his tone was hostile, defiant and angry.

Related stories

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Retrospective-4, 11/1/09: 787 Line 2 Postmortem

DownloadOct. 1, 2020, (c) Leeham News: This is the fourth in a series of Retrospectives about Boeing’s decision to locate the second 787 Final Assembly Line in Charleston (SC).

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Retrospective-3, 10/20/09: Dueling Messages: Boeing vs IAM

DownloadOct. 1, 2020, (c) Leeham News: This is the third of a Retrospective look at the 2009 decision by Boeing to place the second 787 Final Assembly Line in Charleston (SC).
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Retrospective-2, 10/29/09: 787 Line 2 aftermath

DownloadRetrospective-2, Oct. 1, 2020, (c) Leeham News.
This is the second in a series of Retrospective looks at the 2009 decision by Boeing to locate 787 Line 2 in Charleston (SC).

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Retrospective-1, 10/28/09: Boeing to Charleston for 787 FAL #2

DownloadOct. 1, 2Oct. 1, 2020, (c) Leeham News: 10 years, 11 months and 27 days ago, Boeing announced it selected its production plant in Charleston (SC) for the site of its second 787 assembly line.
The decision came after an intense battle with its touch labor union, IAM 751, over concessions demanded by Boeing and offers made by the union.
Boeing told Washington State there were no incentives that could be offered to persuade Boeing to locate Line 2 in Everett (WA). The issue, Boeing said, was entirely about the union. However, it was later learned South Carolina state and local governments provided Boeing with nearly $1bn in tax breaks and other incentives to locate Line 2 there. State and local Washington officials felt flimflammed by Boeing officials.
Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington asked Boeing if there was anything the state could do to persuade Boeing do keep Line 1 in Everett.
The company is meeting today to decide whether to consolidate the two lines into one to save money because of the COVID-19 crisis. When CEO David Calhoun announced a study during the 2Q2020 earnings call July 29, it was considered a foregone conclusion that Charleston would be selected for the site.
LNA provided extensive coverage in 2009 about the decision. We’re publishing several articles in a Retrospective look about the decision then to locate Line 2 in Charleston.

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Pontifications: Boeing in Washington: Here We Go Again

By Bryan Corliss

Sept. 7, 2020, © Leeham News: Stop me if you’ve heard this one: the pundits are saying Boeing is going to leave Puget Sound, leaving behind the hollow husk of a company doomed to wither and die on the vine.

Bryan Corliss

Just like they did in 2003, in 2009, in 2013 and 2016.

Seattle-area political economist and author T.M. Sell, in fact, traces the company’s first threat to leave clear back to the 1920s, when company executives got into a fight with the Seattle City Council over building new roads to connect downtown with the airport we now call Boeing Field. 

Boeing said it would pack up and move to southern California, if Seattle didn’t cooperate. 

“Like rain in winter, this is a regular feature of the Puget Sound emotional landscape,” Sell opined back in 2009.

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