As I argued last month, the Puget Sound area of Washington state was easily the best place, from a strictly economic point of view, for Boeing to build its new 777x jetliner. This was confirmed when, despite the rejection of its union contract offer by a 2:1 margin and opening an auction for a new facility, Boeing came back to the union with a second contract offer (h/t New York Times). Yesterday, by a 51-49 margin, workers voted to accept the contract.
The new contract ends the company’s pension plan in favor of a 401(k), although it does not “affect the pensions already accrued.” This was unchanged from the previous offer. However, the company did make concessions on the time to raise to the top of a pay grade (6 years instead of the originally proposed 16) and by adding a second bonus payment, of $5,000, in 2020.
The closeness of the vote shows how difficult a decision this was. In addition, there was a rift between the international office of the Machinists’ union, which all but openly supported the contract, and the local union, which quite openly opposed it. Though the workers had a good bargaining position, it’s hard to negotiate with a gun to your head, and the company had also shown its willingness to do something stupid (from an economic point of view) when it put a production line for 787 in South Carolina rather than Washington.
So, yet another company ends a true pension plan, contributing to the coming retirement crisis. Washington state gets to set another record for the largest incentive package in U.S. history, although it is surely a violation of World Trade Organization subsidy rules, as was Boeing’s 2003 package. And we see yet again the need to ban job piracy, which strengthens the kind of job blackmail we have seen in this case, like so many others.
Cross-posted at Middle Class Political Economist.