Boeing isn't a story of jobs disappearing. They're just moving to South Carolina

Aerospace giant Boeing is back in the news again, though not for the sort of thing they would generally like to see. The company announced this week through union representatives that roughly 1800 people would be losing their jobs. The layoffs are taking the form of “buyouts” which include a few generous incentives on their way out the door at the company’s facilities in Washington state. (UPI)

More than 1,800 unionized employees of Boeing will leave the company through voluntary buyouts, two unions announced.

Personnel cuts in Boeing’s commercial aircraft division, where the formerly Seattle-based company has about half of its 75,000 employees, were announced in December. The International Association of Machinists, which represents workers in Washington State, said about 1,500 of its members will accept the offered buyouts, which include a week of severance pay for every year of service and six months of medical coverage. The Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, representing engineers and aircraft inspectors, said 305 members will also accept buyouts, involving the same severance pay but only three months of medical coverage.

This is certainly bad news for the workers and their families, not to mention the community in general. But it’s hard to ignore the almost gleeful tone being taken by some journalists since any bad news on the jobs front is big news now that Donald Trump is in office. The linked article even manages to close with a quote from the President earlier this year, saying that “American industry is roaring back,” and jobs is one of the big reasons for his victory.

Of course, there’s another aspect of the story which is receiving little to no mention. That quote from Donald Trump was not delivered in Washington state. It came from remarks he made in South Carolina where Boeing also has quite a bit of activity taking place, but it doesn’t involve workers being laid off. It’s a story of thousands of new hires and new models of planes rolling off the production line while workers reject membership in the same unions making this week’s announcement. (Fox News)

Nearly three-quarters of eligible production workers at Boeing’s South Carolina plant voted Wednesday not to join the International Association of Machinists in a major setback for organized labor.

The Post & Courier newspaper reported that 2,097 of 2,828 voting workers — 74.2 percent — cast ballots against unionization.

Under NLRB rules, workers must wait a year before another union vote. In a statement, Machinists organizer Mike Evans said the union was disappointed with the vote but vowed to stay in close touch with Boeing workers to figure out next steps.

So 1800 workers in Washington are finding themselves unemployed. At the same time, more than 3000 people in the Palmetto State have gone to work, begun training and started pumping new life into the economy. So why aren’t the two unions in Washington who are making this doleful announcement talking about that story? I’m just taking a shot in the dark here, but it might be because South Carolina is a right to work state and the union has already been roundly rejected by the workers there who want to see the business grow and not kill the new goose which is suddenly laying a considerable quantity of golden eggs.

Boeing is not crashing and burning, nor is the economy collapsing. What we’re seeing is a rebalancing of resources where employers are going to places where there is an available pool of skilled labor and they can simultaneously keep labor costs under control to remain competitive in a challenging global market. Much like everything else in our capitalist system, such transitions produce winners and losers. Unfortunately for the employees of Boeing, their unions have opened the door to the “loser” side of the equation hitting the folks in Washington state while the benefits accrue to the citizens of South Carolina.