Ryker, in her letter to Boeing's Conner, spoke for many union members when she explained her planned "no" vote: "I have told my father … I would rather keep my integrity and be unemployed than bullied into agreeing to a contract that hurts my children in the future."
Such sentiments were once unthinkable here. Few major U.S. cities have such a strong identification with a single corporation.
The tie to Seattle goes back to 1916, when William Boeing created a company in a small building on the shores of Lake Union and built his first wooden airplane in a boathouse. The company grew to become the world's largest commercial aircraft maker.
Sitting in her living room one afternoon after her letter landed, Ryker pulled out a Boeing notepad and drew a long, looping cul-de-sac. Along its edge she drew 11 boxes, one for each tidy house in the Marysville neighborhood where she grew up.
She wrote "Boeing" on her childhood home and then paused before writing a "B" on six others.
"Those are all Boeing houses," Ryker said. "And that's just on my street."
Ryker's letter — which she sent to Conner, the union and the Everett Daily Herald — ran in the newspaper's aerospace blog the day of the union vote. She has since received dozens of emails from other multi-generation Boeing workers applauding her eloquence and guts.
Comments on the newspaper website, however, skewed vitriolic; after reading a few, the young woman with the shy smile stopped.
One commenter called Ryker "a spoiled brat!" Another levied a dare: "If you are not happy with your job then quit and leave ... you did not start this business, you are not the greatest workers in the world."
Such comments have become common as U.S. sentiment toward labor unions has deteriorated. A Pew Research Center poll two years ago showed that 45% of Americans viewed unions favorably. Union membership continues to plummet — to 11% of the U.S. workforce today from 35% in the 1950s.
Manufacturing companies such as Boeing are electing to do business in right-to-work states, where laws allow most workers to refuse to join unions even if their workplace is unionized. As a result, unions are losing bargaining power. The contract that machinists spurned in Washington is a case in point.
Under the proposed contract, traditional pension plans for newly hired machinists would be converted to a 401(k) type of retirement program in which Boeing would contribute 10% the first year, 8% the second, 6% the third and 4% for each year up to the end of the contract.
And while it currently takes a worker about six years to reach the top of a pay grade, the wait would have nearly tripled had the contract been accepted. In Ryker's pay grade, entry-level workers make about $16 an hour, or $33,280 annually. "Maxed-out" workers such as Ryker earn $36.36 an hour, or nearly $76,000 a year.
"The hard part is, people just look at the maxed-out rate and think every Boeing employee fits that mold," she said. "But when you start out at Boeing, people struggle. Some of the lower labor grades actually qualify for low-income housing."
Ryker started working at Boeing as an intern when she was 17 and was hired full time at 20. But in 1999 she was laid off and spent eight years in other jobs. When she was rehired in 2007, her pay was so low her sons qualified for subsidized school lunches.
Yet a long-term Boeing career was always something to aspire to, Ryker said. Her octogenarian grandmother, Libby, is independent today in part because of the Boeing pension earned by her late husband, Tom. Ryker has asked that her family members' last names not be used for fear of retribution.
Her sister Megan and brother-in-law Jason were able to buy a house once Jason was hired by Boeing.
"It was a really big deal for us," said Megan, 35, who is about to graduate from Western Washington University in Bellingham. "We were on the poverty line. Now we're solidly middle class. ... That's why this latest contract is so upsetting."
Boeing shares, meanwhile, have reached all-time highs — up $58.89, or 78%, to $134.25 year-to-date. Just last month, at the 2013 Dubai Airshow, Boeing said it had signed 777X contracts amounting to a record-setting $95 billion for 259 airplanes.
What happens next is unclear. In a Thanksgiving email, the union told its membership there had been no further discussions with the company. Other states hurried to take advantage of the opportunity.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced that the state's major construction unions had agreed in an "unprecedented commitment" to a 24-hour, no-overtime work schedule if Boeing selects St. Louis to build a new jet factory. A special session of the Legislature there convened to debate an incentives package worth up to $150 million a year.
Despite this, Washington officials still hope for the best. And so does Ryker.
For now, though, they wait.