After next week, after five more work days, I’m off for the rest of the year. Also after next week, I will have worked for 35 years. Many years ago, when I first started working, a then old engineer advised me to use the stairs and avoid the elevator. He advised me, “If everyday you walk up the stairs, then one day you will walk out of here. However, if everyday you ride the elevator, then one day you will be carried out of here.” I was relating this story to my boss, as we were both huffing and puffing up the stairs. His put was a little different from mine. He wouldn’t have minded taking the elevator. He even joked about being carted out in an ambulance, “Turn on the lights! Turn on the siren! I’ve worked 35 years for this moment.”
2013 has been a pretty good business year and 2014 is looking pretty good for work too. I don’t have too many more years of work left to worry about. That is why this entire hubbub about the 777X has more the aspect of an academic interest than one of any personal ramifications. To encapsulate, Boeing and its main Seattle union have been trying to come to some sort of agreement. Boeing is offering the boatload of work that the 777X represents, but it wants concessions, in particular, it wants to phase out pensions for new hires. So far, the Seattle union has balked at this, while most of the company has already accepted it, including the Saint Louis union. As an old fart, my pension is grandfathered. When the Seattle labor negotiations took a twist, after the union rejected an offer, Boeing solicited proposals for relocating the 777X.
Missouri and Saint Louis politicians have been falling all over themselves by coming up with $3.5B in incentives for Boeing. I don’t know where that leaves us in the peloton, but 22 locales have submitted proposals. Meanwhile, the recently revitalized National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) remains looming in the shadows. The labor turmoil over the 777X is almost déjà vu the story of the second 787 line, the one that ended up in South Carolina. That one ended up in the NLRB’s lap, only to be whisked away at the last moment with a new labor agreement. Personally, I think that this site search is just kabuki and that the line will remain in Seattle, but the relatively high cost of Seattle labor is leading to a steady outflow of jobs. Earlier this year, the move of 600 IT positions to Saint Louis was announced. Today, another 300 R&D jobs were announced. Saint Louis is not alone in this largess, because Alabama is scheduled to get 500 new R&D jobs too. This is all public knowledge.
I mentioned that I have a pension, but because I have gone walk-about so much, my pension will amount to only a fraction of our retirement income. Most of our income will come from our IRA and 401K savings. Generous company matching and some self-discipline have created a nice nest egg. I think that the flexibility of these tax deferred savings plans offer a better path for young people than the traditional defined pension plan. That young man peering over the battlement had no idea of what lay ahead of him. I know, because I am he.