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Originally published December 8, 2009 at 3:52 PM | Page modified December 8, 2009 at 6:01 PM

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Past strikes continue to influence Boeing decisions

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers was mistaken not to accept Boeing's proposal for a no-strike agreement. Witness Boeing's latest move to migrate more airplane work to South Carolina.

IT was no shock to learn that Boeing's assembly plant in South Carolina will be able to operate without any parts or assemblies produced by members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. That was the whole point of Boeing having a nonunion assembly line in a right-to-work state: to have insurance against strikes.

Boeing's choice of South Carolina is the real cost of the Machinists strike of 2008. That was the fourth such walkout in recent years, and was over issues that weren't important enough to strike about. It's the cost also of the Machinists leadership misjudging how much power the union has.

When the company said it would set up outside of Washington unless it got a no-strike agreement, it put Machinists over a barrel.

During negotiations, this page said to the union, "This is not a negotiation in which you have your usual bargaining power ... It's not a nice place for a union to be, but that is where you are. Accept it, and get the best deal you can."

It was our way of saying, "Take the company's offer."

They didn't. The Machinists offered a no-strike pact with big conditions, and the company walked out. It didn't have to accept big conditions. It didn't have to have a deal at all. The union did.

The union lost, and the Pacific Northwest lost.

Now we are hearing people say Boeing is making a mistake — that building parallel capacity in Charleston is the same botched strategy that has delayed the 787 Dreamliner by more than two years.

It is not the same strategy. This is not global outsourcing. This is Boeing building itself an assembly plant. It's just not here.

Boeing's decision is game-changing but not game-ending. Most of the company's assembly work will remain here, under union jurisdiction. The Machinists will still have the right to strike — but they had better think harder before they do it.

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