Would delayed IAM vote had made a difference? We don’t think so

We really hoped we were done with this story, but the saga of the IAM 751 Boeing 777X contract vote lives on.

  • Several complaints about the timing of the January 3 vote have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board.The NLRB says it will take three months to investigate the matter.
  • More than 1,000 members of 751 local units have called for a recount or a new election; the International rejected these demands. (Note: in government elections, recounts are generally not undertaken unless the margin is less than 100 or the percentage difference is less than 0.5%.) The margin in the January 3 vote was 51%-49% and some 600 votes.
  • A local 751 member declared his candidacy for general vice president of the International IAM, in an election to be rerun from a year ago because of procedural irregularities. This is, of course, part of the irony of the entire matter: the International hijacked the election process from 751, which has never been accused of voting irregularities (that we know of). We’ve observed a couple of vote counts by 751 and found them to be scrupulous.

The critics of the election’s timing note that several thousand members of 751 were on vacation on January 3. Absentee voting was allowed for the first time in IAM history, but according to media reports, about 2,700 members did not vote in this election who voted in the November 13 election. The 777X contract was rejected then by a 67%-33% margin.

If these 2,700 members voted in the January 3 election, about 72% of these would have had to vote “Reject” to overcome the 51% “Accept” result. This is 5 percentage points greater than the November 13 Reject vote. We’re not persuaded this would have occurred.

We were involved in local suburban and state legislative elections from 1998 through 2011. In the suburb where we live, voter turnout in presidential years routinely was 85%. We analyzed voting results and voting trends in all but the 2011 election. In no case did absentee votes alter the initial reported outcome by more than 1%. Those on the losing end hoped that absentee ballots would make up the difference. We always calculated what percentage of votes would be required to overcome a deficit. Super-majority percentages were beyond reach.

It is based on this experience, and the percentages achieved in the November 13 and January 3 votes, that leads us to conclude that even if the “missing” 2,700 members had cast votes, the required percentage to win–72%–was impossible to achieve.

We believe the contract still would have been accepted.

Outsourcing focus of Boeing report, but misses bigger picture; IAM vote aftermath; Boeing’s 2013

A long article (10 pages when printed) discusses the pitfalls Boeing had by outsourcing so much work on the 787. This much is not new. The point the article raises–transferring technology and the potential decline of US aerospace dominance–isn’t especially new, either; we’ve written about this in the past.

What the article, however, overlooks is that Boeing isn’t alone in doing this. To certain degrees, Airbus, Bombardier and Embraer also are guilty–as are a number of other OEMs and suppliers. CFM International, for example entered into a joint venture with the Chinese that would help them develop an modern commercial jet engine. Fortunately, CFM pulled back on this over concerns of technology transfer.

Airbus has an A320 assembly line in Tianjin, China, and Embraer had an ERJ-145 assembly line in the PRC. McDonnell Douglas had an MD-80/MD-90 line in Shanghai.

Bombardier contracts with Chinese companies to produce the Q400 and CSeries fuselages, the latter with the advanced aluminum-lithium metals.

The airframe OEMs will tell you that final assembly represents a small portion of the airplane and the risk of technology transfer is minimal. But it’s probably no coincidence that the COMAC/AVIC ARJ21 looks the the MD-80 (but sized like the DC-9-10) or that the C919 looks an awfully lot like the A320.

The article points out that Mitsubishi, which builds the wings for the Boeing 787, is now using this experience to design and build the MRJ-90. True enough, though it should be noted that having experience the composite wing issues associated with the 787, Mitsubishi abandoned plans for a composite wing for the MRJ and is proceeding with metal instead.

Suppliers are basically extorted by China: if you want to sell us your goods, you have to be prepared to transfer technology. Suppliers can’t ignore this huge market, but try to mitigate the blackmail by transferring “yesterday’s” technology or at least developing tomorrow’s technology today while transferring today’s technology to China.

It doesn’t stop with China, of course. Boeing and Airbus have Russian ties with engineers. Bombardier is planning a Q400 assembly line in Russia. Indian engineers work on Airbus and Boeing airplanes and now plan their own turbo-prop.

The days of the Big Two Duopoly are numbered. And it’s not just Boeing that is guilty of aiding and abetting the new competition.

Boeing’s Good Year in 2013

Set aside the disruptive and embarrassing ground of the 787 in January through April, Boeing had a very good year in 2013. It posted a record rate of deliveries, besting Airbus for the second year in a row. It’s order book was the best since 9/11. Here is the press release.

Airbus announces its 2013 production and delivery results on January 13.

Boeing-IAM vote: After-thoughts

We can’t go by this week without a short commentary on the Boeing-IAM vote on Friday, but we’re not going to spend a lot of time on this—we’ve analyzed this issue a number of times and there is little more to say except this:

It was a very tough vote for the union members of IAM 751. Giving up benefits won in previous hard-fought battles is always tough. But the Boeing 777X will be assembled in Washington State, and the composite wings will be built in Washington, too. Our view is that having 80% of something (benefits) is better than 100% of nothing (the 777X).

Boeing, of course, will return to the State and the union for more tax breaks and concessions when the 757 and 737 replacements are designed and a decision is needed about where to build these airplanes. Boeing is now in a position to seem more concessions from labor during a contract that’s in place to September 2024, and the union can’t strike. It’s been significantly weakened, losing leverage ion addition to benefits as a result of Friday’s contract vote.

But this enables Boeing to tell customers the threat of delivery disruptions from strikes is gone, and this will reassure them, which may or may not help sales—thus providing more work for IAM members.

Boeing faces a huge morale problem for the members who feel they’ve been had in this process. IAM members have long, long memories. Although there is no option to strike, members can “work to the rules” or find other ways to decrease productivity. Boeing has some real fence-mending to do. We’ll see whether it makes any effort to do so.

Labor isn’t content with the narrow yes vote, however. Some are calling for a third vote, arguing the January 3 election date was set to deliberately disenfranchise a large number of union members who likely would have voted No. Turnout last week was lower than the November 13 vote because many members were still on vacation from the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

IAM 751, in dramatic reversal, accepts Boeing 777X contract

The members of the International Association of Machinists District 751, in a dramatic reversal of its November 13 landslide contract rejection, today approved a revised contract offer from Boeing by a vote of 51% to 49%.


Approval means Boeing will produce the new composite wings for the 777X and undertake final assembly of the airplane right here in Puget Sound (Seattle). The 777 Classic is assembled at Boeing’s Everett factory, home to all wide body assembly since it was built specifically for the 747. The 777 Classic’s wings fuselage panels are produced in Japan and shipped to Everett for assembly to the fuselage.

The outcome was in doubt as 751 members began voting at 5am today. Rallies leading up to the vote were largely anti-acceptance. Pro-acceptance rallies were lightly attended.

Sentiment on blogs and in Comment sections of the Seattle papers overwhelmed positive comments. Reports from the field polling places suggested the contract would be rejected.

The vote secures jobs for the IAM members at the expense of ending the defined pension plan in 2016 in favor of a 401(k) approach to retirement benefits. It also extends of Letter of Understanding (#42) providing that 737 MAX and KC-46A tanker production remains in Puget Sound through 2024, to which is when the 2016 contract has now been extended.

The controversial contract may bring mixed feelings to union members, but it brings unfettered job to elected officials, the Puget Sound supply chain and other interested parties who feared Boeing would take all the 777X production elsewhere at the cost of nearly 30,000 direct and indirect jobs and huge hits to the local economy.

But make no mistake: when Boeing proceeds with a new airplane design to replace the 757, followed by one to replace the 737, we’re going to see another round of efforts to browbeat the union and the state into more concessions or give-backs in exchange for production to be located here.

The timeline for decisions for a 757 replacement should begin around 2017. Decisions for a 737 replacement should begin around 2020.

Tonight’s IAM 751-Boeing 777X contract vote (Update, 9p)

Vote results and IAM 751 statement are here.

We’ll be at IAM 751’s headquarters tonight for the vote results. Follow us on Twitter @leehamnews for news throughout the evening from around 7pm. We’ll post results here when announced, which is estimated between 8-9pm PST. Depending on how things are going, we may also update this post during the evening before the results are in. Update, 7:30pm: We’re at IAM 751 HQ awaiting the vote. Vote counting is done here and is either underway or done at the other locations except Everett, where high turnout and slow process delayed counting, which was estimated to begin at 7:30. IAM officials don’t know yet how long it will take to complete the counting and call in the results. We’re still standing by for result announcements around 9pm until advised otherwise. Unlike the November 13 vote, it’s very quiet here. The prediction is for a “no” vote. We shall see.

Update 8:30pm: Nothing new, still in holding pattern.

Update 9pm: Everett done counting, results in about 20 min, now said to be too close to call.

Countdown to IAM-Boeing vote January 3; poll results; union urged to accept; no tax breaks from WA if Boeing splits work

Two third of Readers in our on-line polling this week urged IAM 751 members to accept the Boeing contract offer that contains major concessions, notably on pensions, in exchange for Boeing selecting Washington State to assemble the 777X and produce its wing here.

The unscientific polling is broad-based and not restricted to union members, and should not be considered indicative of the outcome of the vote today. Results are to be announced tonight around 9pm PST.

The polling results below are as of January 2. Voting is still open so totals may differ in the original post vs what is reported below, but voting subsided to the point where results should remain constant.

Should IAM 751 Members Accept or Reject the Boeing 777X contract?

Answer Votes Percent
Accept 366 67%  
Reject 183 33%  

Key political leaders in the Puget Sound area met Monday with Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, before meeting with the press and urging the members of IAM 751 to approve the contract.

The Puget Sound Business Journal has a detailed story, including the dire consequences if the contract is rejected.

The Associated Press has a similar story.

IAM 751 sent a letter December 23 to its members recommending a No vote and detailing why.

According to the civic leaders meeting with Conner, the BCA CEO said if the 751 members don’t accept the contract, the wing production will be sent elsewhere. According to the news reports, Conner was more ambiguous about the fuselage work and final assembly.

The Requests for Proposals Boeing issued after 751 members rejected the first contract offer on November 13 allowed for splitting the FAL and the wing production among sites. But we confirmed with Washington’s Director of Aerospace that if Boeing does this, none of the $8.7bn in tax breaks the state offered Boeing will be extended; it’s an all-0r-nothing offer.

Missouri is the only other state to go public with its tax break offer: $1.7bn from the state and $1.4bn from St. Louis County.

Texas, California, South Carolina, Alabama, Utah and Georgia are among the 22 states that offered up 54 sites to Boeing in the RFP process. North Carolina and Pennsylvania are the only ones to publicly reveal they were eliminated in Boeing’s early analysis of the RFPs.

The contract offers set off internal strife at the IAM. District 751 leaders are feuding with the IAM International leaders, who negotiated the contracts with Boeing and who have largely run roughshod over 751. Local leaders oppose ratification of the contract and the International urges acceptance. International forced the January 3 vote over the objections of the District.

But our polling also shows the District 751 leadership is in trouble. A large percentage of our Readers blame 751 leaders for the current mess and more want to see the District leaders replaced than the International heads.

A large number of Readers also believe District 751 should be decertified as Boeing’s union representation and a large number believe 751 should divorce from its affiliation with IAM International.

We understand that neither decertification nor “divorce” can occur until 2016 under the current contract, or until 2024 if the contract is Accepted and extended. One of our Readers believes that if this contract is rejected, it is possible for changes to be made this year. We don’t know the answer.

These poll results are below the jump.

Read more

Odds and Ends: Looking ahead in 2014; Boeing letter to Machinists; TWA retro choice; Screw it, let’s do it on Virgin [plane]

Looking ahead in 2014: We wrote this outlook for 2014 for CNN International Travel.  More seats, more fees, quieter year.

IAM 751 members vote Friday on the ‘777X contract.‘ Here is a letter dated December 27 from Boeing to the Machinists making the case to vote for the contract.

It is the TWA Twin Globe livery that is the clear choice by our Readers for American Airlines to select for a retro livery.

Source: Photobucket.com. Convair 880

TWA’s last livery was a distant second. (We didn’t particularly like this design.) The design should probably go on an MD-80, the derivative of the DC-9 on which the Twin Globes livery appeared.

Source: Ed Coats Collection. Douglas DC-9-15.

Which TWA livery should join American Airlines’ fleet as the “heritage” airplane?

Answer Votes Percent
Boeing 707 Twin Globes Livery 944 53%  
Final Blue/Red/Gold Livery shown on Boeing 757 427 24%  
Red Stripe, Solid Tail Livery shown on Boeing 747 165 9%  
1950s Livery seen on Lockheed Constellation 158 9%  
Boeing 707 Delivery Livery (no Twin Globes) 56 3%  
Reverse Red livery shown on McDonnell Douglas MD-80 23 1%  

In other news and irreverence:

  • Today is the last day to vote in our polls concerning the IAM-Boeing ‘777X Contract.’ We’ll post the results before the machinists begin voting on Friday.
  • Aspire Aviation has a long profile on the 777X here.

2013 Year in Review: 787 grounding was the top story

We’re back from what we had planned as a holiday hiatus. This was interrupted by the IAM-Boeing 777X contract issue, of which we felt compelled to initiate some special posts.

This leads off our 2013 Year in Review.

IAM-Boeing 777X Contract

Although it was not voted by Readers as the most important story of 2013, nor did it even make the Top Three, its importance can’t be understated. The relationship between the IAM 751 District, which represents Boeing “touch labor” workers in Puget Sound (and in limited numbers, in Oregon and elsewhere), is to put the best face on it, dysfunctional. Relations hit a lot point in 2008, with a 57 day strike, and 2009, when Boeing elected to put 787 line 2 in Charleston. We thought, as did many others, that 751 and Boeing entered a new era in 2011 when an agreement was reached extending the 2012 contract to 2016 in exchange for locating the 737 MAX construction in Renton. As it turns out, this guarantee had less promise to it than was thought; Boeing is using this assembly as a stick (or a carrot) in the current 777X contract proposal.

If the 777X is not assembled in Washington, this will likely mark the beginning of a serious migration of Boeing from Washington. What’s been happening up to down, with 787 Line 2 and a series of jobs relocations, is peanuts compared with what will happen as airplane programs wind down and Boeing has clean-sheet designs in the next decade.

Failure of 751 and Boeing to come to some accord (not necessarily one based on the January 3 contract vote) has grave implications for IAM jobs and aerospace in Washington.

Top Story of the Year

Readers voted and we agree that the top commercial aviation story of the year was the three month ground of the 787. Except for the Concorde, a special and highly limited case, there hadn’t been a grounding of a commercial jet since 1979 with the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. With only 50 787s in service at the time of the grounding, global disruption was limited but the number of 787s scheduled for delivery during this time magnified the global implications. Japan Air Lines and its rival All Nippon Airways, with more 787s in service than any other carrier, were disproportionately affected. The grounding may have helped influence JAL to break the Boeing monopoly and buy Airbus with the A350-900 order.

ANA is still considering a major order and having lost JAL to Airbus, Boeing can be counted on being motivated to cut virtually any deal on any terms and conditions to avoid losing ANA.

A350 and 777X

A mere handful of votes separated the first flight and flight testing of the A350XWB with the launch of the 777X. The A350XWB barely topped the 777X as the second most important story of 2013.

Flight testing by all accounts is going well. Airbus officials are so far sticking with an entry-into-service for next year, but when is a moving target. Officials initially said mid-year, then September then November or December. Based on customer comments, we moved EIS to 1Q2015 in our estimates months ago, perhaps January.

In mid-December, the new American Airlines did what we had expected: it dropped the US Airways order for the A350-800, swapping it into the A350-900. The days of the -800 are numbered, and we think this subtype will follow the 787-3 into oblivion as early as 2014.

Boeing finally launched the 777X in November at the Dubai Air Show. The launch was really anti-climatic: Lufthansa Airlines had already become the first customers in advance of the air show, but Dubai provided the well-expected, high-profile order of 150 from Emirates Airlines and more orders from Qatar Airways and Etihad Airlines. On December 20, Cathay Pacific Airways ordered 21 777-9s, giving Boeing some 280 orders and commitments for the airplane. How many of the commitments will actually be firmed up by the end of 2013 is something we’ll all know in early January.

CSeries First Flight and Flight Testing

Bombardier came in at a distant fourth in the Reader tally with the first flight of the CSeries. This is BBD’s attempt to leap into the Big Leagues, challenging Airbus and Boeing directly at the small end of the mainline jet market. First flight was delayed three times and the flight test program has been slow off the mark. Flight Test Vehicle 2 is behind schedule entering the program and, we believe, so is FTV 3.

Bombardier long said that EIS would be 12 months after first flight. Following the September 16 launch of FTV 1, BBD stuck with this plan publicly. This meant EIS would be September 2014.

Not a chance.

We already had moved EIS to 1Q2015 by the time BBD CEO Pierre Beaudoin told the Toronto Globe and Mail in November that EIS was still a “good year” away.

We now have EIS in 2Q or 3Q2015 in our estimates. BBD’s year-end earnings call is February 11. We expect an EIS update from the company at that time.

Other Stories

All other nominees for 2013’s Top Stories were also-rans to Bombardier. Here are the results at December 29.

Vote for the Top Aviation Stories of 2013

Answer Votes Percent
Airbus A350 XWB has first flight and enters testing 168 20%  
Airbus A380 gets big order boost from Emirates 16 2%  
American Airlines and US Airways merge 39 5%  
Boeing 777X is launched 164 20%  
Boeing 777X Site Selection competition 43 5%  
Boeing 787 is grounded 258 31%  
Boeing 787-10 is launched 11 1%  
Bombardier CSeries has first flight and enters testing 74 9%  
Embraer launches E-Jet E2 3 0%  
IAM 751 rejects 777X Contract Nov. 13 33 4%  
IAM International Forces Vote on Second 777X contract offer 24 3%   

The deeper, longer term implications of IAM’s Boeing contract vote January 3

There are deeper, longer term implications for the January 3 vote by IAM 751 members on the revised contract proposal from Boeing than have been discussed in the public domain.

  • Contract extension to 2024 brings “labor peace,” but also significantly weakens the union in the future.
  • The replacement for the Boeing 757 lurks in the background.
  • So does the replacement for the 737 MAX.

The near-term implications have been discussed ad nausea: for employees, vote for a contract that includes concessions, notably on pensions, or risk losing the assembly site for the 777X. For the states, Washington could be a winner, or a big loser. The state that’s awarded the assembly site would be a big winner. Suppliers will supply Boeing regardless of where the 777X is assembled.

Another near-term implication we’ve talked about: the fall-out on the IAM, both at the International level and the District 751 level. No matter how the vote turns out, there is a civil war within 751 members who are royally upset with their leadership and others who believe in it. The civil war between 751 and IAM International HQ will continue well beyond the vote, with the prospect that International could simply depose all the 751 leaders and place 751 under a trustee “for the good of the union.”

But there are much longer term implications of the vote.

Read more

Vote in poll on IAM Boeing 777X contract

The  IAM 751 members vote Friday whether to Accept or Reject a contract proposal from Boeing that will extend the term to 2024 and contain several contract concessions in return for assembling the 777X in Everett (WA) and producing the wing here. The issues are, to say the least, controversial.

Here’s a chance to express an opinion whether the contract should be Accepted. We can’t control who votes–in other words, members and non-members can vote in our poll. But absent any polling of the members, this is the only mechanism to gauge opinion in advance of the vote. We’ll release results next Friday morning.

The contract terms and conditions, how the contract was negotiated and sent to members and the split between 751 leaders, IAM International and within the 751 membership are controversial.

Some IAM 751 members are unhappy with 751 leadership and the International.

IAM International president Buffenbarger rallied against pension cuts at Boeing’s IAM 837 District

IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger advocates that IAM 751 approve a contract from Boeing that freezes current pensions and adopts a 401(k) style pension for future hires. Yet Buffenbarger advocated to IAM 837 (the union District at Boeing’s St. Louis plant) reject a contract that did just this.

Here is Buffenbarger in an IAM-produced video.