Commentary: Another costly strike for Boeing, Machinists

This editorial appeared in the Tacoma News Tribune on Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2008.

The economy being what it is, many Washingtonians have watched the union contract talks at Boeing with wonderment and perhaps even envy.

Before the Boeing Machinists went on strike in early September, the aerospace company’s had offered the union’s members an 11 percent salary increase over three years (5 percent in the first year), a minimum wage increase of $2.28, a ratification bonus of $2,500, a lump sum bonus worth about $5,000 and another large bonus linked to profits.

Out-of-pocket costs for the company’s chief health plan would have gone up – but the coverage would still have been generous by most standards. Overall, even the original offer would have looked like heaven to most Washington wage-earners.

Now, after striking for nearly eight weeks, the Machinists appear ready to ratify a new offer that does not appear dramatically better. The lost weeks of work cost the rank-and-file members dearly. The hit to the company’s profits may well exceed $1.5 billion.

We are not arguing that the Machinists should or shouldn’t have taken Boeing’s final offer in August. Only the union’s members can ultimately decide if their interests were served by this particular strike.

But the frequency of these strikes – they’ve been recurring roughly every five years – bodes ill for the survival of aerospace manufacturing in this state.

To read the complete editorial, visit The News Tribune.