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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Pontifications: WA State frets about Boeing brain drain, but it’s already happening

By Scott Hamilton

Aug. 31, 2020, © Leeham News: Elected officials and others in Washington State worry about the “brain drain” as Boeing considers whether to consolidate 787 production from Everett to Charleston.

These people are asleep at the switch and have been for some time. The brain drain is already just around the corner.

Nearly half of the membership of SPEEA, the engineers and technicians union at Boeing, are 50 years or older right now.

Almost two thirds of these are within 55-64 years old. In other words, ready for retirement right now or soon to be.

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Pontifications: Did Boeing telegraph its decision in February consolidating 787 production?

Aug. 24, 2020, © Leeham News: Did Boeing telegraph plans to consolidate its 787 production in Charleston last February?

By Scott Hamilton

That’s when Boeing announced it asked the Washington Legislature to cancel tax breaks granted in 2003 to locate what was then the only 787 production line, in Washington.

Given subsequent events in which Boeing in July said it will consider consolidating two lines into one, one must wonder if the decision is already made. There’s near unanimous conclusions by outsiders that Everett’s days producing the 787 are numbered.

When Boeing said it asked the Legislature to cancel the tax breaks, officials said it was doing so to comply with a long-ago decision by the World Trade Organization that the breaks were illegal.

The WTO has yet to agree. It’s their call, not Boeing’s whether compliance was achieved.

But what is unequivocally true is that if Boeing moved 787 production out of Washington, those 2003 tax breaks would disappear. Gary Locke, who was governor in 2003 when the Legislature approved them, told me in 2008 this was the case.

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IAM warns members: Boeing is coming for concessions on 787 consolidation study

Aug. 22, 2020, © Leeham News: The president of Boeing’s touch labor union, IAM 751, is warning members that the company study about potentially consolidating 787 production in Charleston could lead to a request for new concessions from the union.

IN a post yesterday on the union’s website, John Holden said a request from Boeing hasn’t happened yet—”however, it is something that we need to expect and prepare for, and we believe that we may be facing that threat soon.”

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Boeing announces voluntary layoffs in Puget Sound

By Bryan Corliss

April 28, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing on Monday formally announced it would offer voluntary layoffs – essentially contract buyouts – to members of its Puget Sound workforce.

For most workers, the offer would give them one week’s pay for each year of service, up to a maximum of 26 weeks. Boeing would also continue paying health insurance benefits for most of the laid-off workers for three months. (The exception to this: Machinists Union members will get six months of extended health benefits under the terms of an agreement negotiated in 2016.)

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Boeing workers delay production over Covid-19 fears

By Bryan Corliss

March 20, 2020, © Leeham News: Sources close to Boeing tell Leeham News & Analysis that Machinists Union members in Puget Sound have shut down production on several occasions this week over fears that the corona virus had made their work stations unsafe.

According to two insiders, workers at sites across Puget Sound are invoking Article 16 of the IAM’s contract with Boeing, which is commonly known as the “Imminent Danger Clause.” It gives workers the ability to shut down work in their area if they have a reasonable concern that they’re working under conditions likely to cause death or serious injury.

Boeing management has been responsive, the insiders said, quickly bringing in environmental health and safety experts to perform assessments and order extensive cleaning in areas where potentially infected people may have worked.

But it’s reasonable to assume that these temporary shutdowns for cleaning will lead to further delays in production, and that they will increase in frequency as the pandemic spreads – particularly after the union sent a reminder to its stewards about the safety language in their contract.

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Engineers OK Boeing contract extension; techs say no

By Bryan Corliss

March 11, 2020 © Leeham News – New Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun earned a split decision in his first major labor relations test Monday, as unionized engineers with the company’s Commercial Airplanes division narrowly approved a contract extension. A second unit, for technical workers, rejected a similar proposal.

The news came as Boeing announced the first case of COVID-19 among its 70,000-member Puget Sound workforce: an unidentified employee at the company’s Everett plant.

The proposal for engineers belonging to SPEEA (the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace) was approved with a 51.2% yes vote, the union reported shortly before midnight (Pacific Time). Technical workers, however, rejected a similar deal with 56.7% “no” vote.

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Boeing engineers voting on surprise contract extension

By Bryan Corliss
Feb. 25, 2020 © Leeham News — Unionized engineers and technical workers at Boeing begin voting this week on unexpected new contract proposals from the company that address two major areas of worker complaints LNA reported on last month: annual raises and paid family leave.

The proposals, which would extend the current contract by four years, came after SPEEA (the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace) threatened to take Boeing to court over what it claimed were deliberate attempts by company management to hold down raises that engineers and tech were entitled to under the current contract.

Those threats led to talks between SPEEA’s executive board and Boeing managers, resulting in the proposed contract extensions. 

SPEEA’s seven-member executive board negotiated the extensions and is urging a “yes” vote. However, the union’s larger Bargaining Unit Councils (one each for both the engineers and techs, with a combined total of close to 100 representatives) did not go along with the endorsements.

There are two separate but related offers, one for engineers and one for technical workers. Voting is by mail. Ballots will be counted on March 9. About 18,000 Boeing workers are involved, most in Washington, but also in California, Oregon and Utah.

Summary

  • Union confronted Calhoun over pay on Day One
  • Proposal locks in annual wage increases
  • SPEEA gets family leave this year

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Calhoun faces first test on labor issues

By Bryan Corliss
Jan. 29, 2020 © Leeham News —
Two weeks into the job, and new Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun is already facing his first labor-management showdown, with SPEEA, the union for engineers and technical workers at the company’s Puget Sound plants.

On Monday, the vice president of engineering functions for Boeing Commercial Airplanes sent a message to members of SPEEA at Boeing, saying that his team has agreed to meetings with SPEEA’s leadership to discuss “areas of contention between the company and the union.”

Chief among those is SPEEA’s charge that Boeing has been manipulating data used to help calculate annual pay adjustments for engineers and techs, while also allowing front-line managers to blow off  annual performance reviews required for engineers and technical workers to determine who would be released first in the event of a layoff.

The union, through a spokesman, declined on Monday to talk about the accusations it’s made in writing about the wage issues. BCA’s VP of engineering functions, Todd Zarfos, said in his note that the two sides have “agreed to refrain from any further accusations and rebuttals about the identified areas of dispute.”

Instead, Zarfos said, they will “work together on possible solutions.”

Summary

  • Blistering broadside on pay for engineers, techs.
  • SPEEA goes to Legislature to seek end to “Boeing exemption.”
  • IAM bargaining unit urges members to save for strike.
  • Will Calhoun change management’s approach to labor?
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Boeing tells union: MAX production halt “weeks;” others see months

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By Scott Hamilton and Byran Corliss

Introduction

Dec. 23, 2019, © Leeham News: The Boeing 737 MAX production shut down will be measured in “weeks,” Boeing told one of its unions.

But “weeks” is a highly  open-ended description.

One supplier estimated for LNA that the suspension will be at least 60-90 days.

An aerospace analyst sees the halt lasting 3-6 months at a minimum.

Boeing 737 MAXes stored at Boeing Field. Source: Seattle Times.

LNA’s analysis does not see production resuming before the Federal Aviation Administration notifies Boeing that it has a date certain for recertification. It has announced no timeline, although published reports already suggest this could be any time from mid-February to well into March.

But these are speculative dates. 

Summary
  • Boeing now says that once certification is achieved, delivering from the inventory is a priority over producing new airplanes.
  • This raises additional uncertainty over restarting production.
  • Spirit Aerosystems has some 90 fuselages in storage.
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