Wroblewski: Workers are Boeing’s only edge

Whether Boeing decides to re-engine the 737 or start from scratch on an all-new replacement is less important than another strategic business decision: whether to partner with its workers or fight them.

“It’s not so much a question of picking the right product, but more of a question of picking the right way to do business,” District 751 President Tom Wroblewski wrote in his column in the June edition of the AeroMechanic newsletter, which is now available online. “Having a world-class product will give a company a competitive edge for a year or two, or even five. But having the best team of skilled and creative workers in place will give a company an advantage for a generation or more.”

This issue is more important now than ever, as new competitors prepare single-aisle jets that will compete with Boeing’s 737 and Airbus’s A320, wrote Wroblewski. In this new and highly competitive environment, Boeing really only has one advantage, he said: its people.

“It’s not the technology,” Wroblewski wrote. “Everybody’s going to have access to the same next-generation jet engines, the same new cockpit avionics and the same kinds of lightweight composite and aluminum alloy building materials.”

Instead, he continued, the winners in the new aerospace race will be “jet-builders with the best people: the best engineers, the best technicians and, especially, the best mechanics to fabricate the parts and assemble the planes, and to provide the best service to airlines after the sale.”

Smart companies — like Triumph Composites in Spokane and Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita — already know this, wrote Wroblewski, who has spent most of the past weeks in Spokane negotiating a new contract for District 751 members at Triumph. It’s time for Boeing to follow their lead, he added.

“Boeing already has the kind of outstanding talent it needs to beat Bombardier and Mitsubishi, Comac and Ilyushin,” Wroblewski said. “The problem is that Boeing management doesn’t get it.

“These kinds of self-defeating business tactics must end if Boeing truly is going to ‘stay in the phone book forever,’ as Alan Mulally used to say,” he concluded.

Also in this month’s AeroMechanic, you’ll find:

  • Reports on meetings between District 751 leaders and top government officials — including Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and members of Washington’s Congressional delegation;
  • A report on why District 751 is working to support U.S. Sen. Patty Murray in her re-election campaign (one big reason — her support of Boeing’s tanker bid);
  • A report on the union’s reaction to Boeing’s decision to extend its lease at Renton Municipal Airport;
  • News on how the Salvation Army has honored District 751 for its community-service efforts with the group’s most-prestigious award;
  • Reports on union MVPs doing community-service work in Auburn, Issaquah and Tacoma; and
  • An interview with retired District 751 member Elaine DeArman, which is part of the union’s ongoing celebration of its 75th anniversary in 2010.

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