Around the Nation

Boeing Continues Showdown With Its Largest Union

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Boeing's effort to move part of its workforce away from pensions and into a 401(k) retirement saving program was rejected by workers Wednesday. The machinists union rejected the new contract by a wide margin. Boeing has threatened to move some assembly work out of the Puget Sound area if the contract was voted down.


Last night, members of Boeing's biggest union, its machinists, soundly rejected a company contract offer. Boeing's proposal would have cut pension and health care benefits in exchange for a promise to build the new version of its triple-seven jetliner at its Seattle area factory. The company said if the union voted no on the contract, it would look elsewhere for a place to build its new plane.

From Seattle, NPR's Wendy Kaufman reports.

WENDY KAUFMAN, BYLINE: The vote was a landmark showdown. Building the 777-X here could mean tens of thousands of well-paying jobs for decades to come. But many Boeing machinists were focused on the contracts immediate impact on them. And by a two-to-one margin they voted no on the deal. They cheered when the vote was announced last night.


KAUFMAN: Union member Thomas Campbell.

THOMAS CAMPBELL: You know what we really want it's just no take-aways. We just want to be able to make a decent living wage and be middle-class.

KAUFMAN: Boeing is posting sizeable profits and there is no question that workers in Seattle know how to build the 777 efficiently. Many union members wonder why Boeing would want to jeopardize that by building it somewhere else. And Campbell and others didn't believe the company would really do that.

CAMPBELL: It's not going to happen. It would be a complete fiasco. It would be corporate suicide for them to attempt that. And people in the factory know that and Boeing knows that.

KAUFMAN: But Boeing says it's already begun to actively pursue other option, and says it has no plans to go back to the union with a new contract.

Aviation analyst Scott Hamilton says he was surprised by the size of the no-vote, but says members of the IAM were very angry.

SCOTT HAMILTON: They were angry that they got this sprung on them with no notice whatsoever. They were angry that they had only a week to even consider the deal. They were angry at the IAM leadership. And they were angry at Boeing. They were just mad at everybody.

KAUFMAN: So what's next? The governor of Washington state, who helped push through billions of dollars in tax breaks to secure the new Boeing project isn't giving up. Alex Pietsch, a senior advisor to the governor, says his boss will continue to press Boeing to build the plane here.

ALEX PIETSCH: So after things cool off a bit here, we'll try to bring the parties back to the table and see what we can do to make that case.

KAUFMAN: As he puts it, this is a big piece of the state economy and worth fighting for.

Wendy Kaufman, NPR News, Seattle.


Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from