After secret talks that began in earnest in mid-October, Boeing and the Machinists union have reached a landmark tentative agreement that would ensure the 737MAX is built in Renton and lead to settlement of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case against the company.
The deal may also bring more Air Force tanker work to the Puget Sound region.
A four-year contract extension is also part of the pact, the union said at a news conference Wednesday.
Members must approve the agreement, and union leaders who’ve endorsed the contract said it will be put to a swift vote next week.
“The 737 MAX has landed here in the state of Washington,” said Tom Wroblewski, president of local district Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists (IAM). “This is a new day, the start of a new way of doing business.”
Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Jim Albaugh confirmed the deal in a statement.
“If our employees ratify a new agreement, building the 737 MAX in Renton will secure a long and prosperous future there, as well as at other sites in the Puget Sound area and in Portland, Ore., where 737 parts are built,” Albaugh said.
I have to wonder about the timing. Craig Becker’s term on the NLRB ends at the end of the year, which denies the board a quorum. But as I’ve blogged previously, the NLRB planned for a lack of quorum by publishing a finding that if there was no quorum then its general counsel could carry on its lawsuit against Boeing and other rule changes. The NLRB was set to vote today on a controversial rule, but scuttled that plan at the last minute after Brian Hayes, the board’s lone Republican member, went public and threatened to resign. His resignation would have denied a quorum and forced the board to either abandon the vote or expose their general counsel move. Now we get a deal with the machinists union that seems to allow Boeing to proceed with the South Carolina Dreamliner plant.
Is this a sign that the NLRB and Obama are finally getting the message? I doubt it, but it’s an interesting possibility.