Outside the box
We spoke last week at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA) annual conference in Lynnwood (WA) in which we made two proposals that were immediately labeled as radical–though we don’t think they are.
One involved Boeing and the IAM 751 local and the other was aimed at the State of Washington.
Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times summed these up nicely, with reactions:
“Outside the box”
Aviation-industry expert Scott Hamilton wants to shake things up to preserve Washington state’s top manufacturing industry, and the well-paid jobs that go with it, in the face of growing competition from other regions and countries.
Wednesday, in a pitch to an audience of managers and executives of local aerospace companies, Hamilton offered two radical proposals:
• Washington should amend the state constitution to allow the direct payment of incentives to companies wanting to locate here. That would create “a level playing field,” he said, “so we could do what South Carolina did.”
• The District 751 Machinists should “divorce” themselves from the International Association of Machinists (IAM) to form a separate union that could act solely in their own interests and be more flexible.
Issaquah-based Hamilton spoke in Lynnwood at the annual conference of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance (PNAA), the trade group for local suppliers to the aviation industry.
One state government official present dismissed the first idea as politically impossible, saying, “We’d get an income tax first.”.
As for the union divorce, that also seems highly unlikely, too.
Hamilton’s premise is that the International, which plays the lead role in contract negotiations, may take a more militant, no-concession approach to 751 bargaining because it knows that later contracts with other companies will follow the pattern set with Boeing.
And the interests of the local and the International have occasionally diverged. A 34-year local union veteran recalled that during the 48-day Machinists strike of 1989, District 751 president Tom Baker rejected out of hand a request to negotiate an issue into the contract that wouldn’t have affected his members, but was intended to provide leverage for Canadian Machinists.
But these days, the union veteran said, the link between Local 751 and the International is tight, “like family.” And District 751′s 26,000 members and the dues it sends to the national union give it more clout than most IAM districts.
In response to Hamilton’s suggestion, Machinists district 751 spokeswoman Connie Kelliher jokingly offered a quick counterproposal, one that isn’t happening anytime soon, either.
“We think it would be highly beneficial to the state of Washington and its aerospace industry if Boeing Commercial Airplanes group would divorce itself from Boeing-Chicago,” said Kelliher. “We’ve certainly found BCA leadership at Longacres to be more reasonable and flexible in our dealings with them.”
The main message of Hamilton’s PNAA presentation was that local aerospace companies need to diversify their businesses beyond building parts for Boeing airliners.
Afterward, he said he threw out his two proposals at the end only to force people to think “outside the box.” Neither one, he conceded, is ever likely to fly.
— Dominic Gates
We’ll add one more:
The Boeing Co. gets about 50% of its revenue from Boeing Commercial, which is headquartered in Washington State–yet not one member of its Board of Directors is from Washington. We find this, umm, odd at best. It also shows the disdain Chicago shows for Washington. The Boeing Co. just added a Washington (DC) insider, a former US Trade Representative, to the Board. You would think that Board representation for 50% of its business and tens of thousands of employees might be in order.
Perhaps IAM 751, SPEEA, shareholders and elected officials should nominate and press the Board for Washington representation.