Boeing Deal with Machinists May Settle NLRB Case

The labor board's complaint against Boeing for moving work to a South Carolina plant has become a potent political football this year.

The National Labor Relations Board's complaint against Boeing Corp. in connection with work moved to a South Carolina plant has become a political flashpoint in Congress and beyond. It may be going away thanks to a settlement, now that Boeing and Local 751 of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers (IAM) have announced an early contract extension that will mean the 737 MAX planes will be built in Renton, Wash.

If the agreement is ratified by hourly workers as both parties expect, Boeing "will make the necessary investment to produce Next-Generation 737s and 737 MAXs in its existing Renton facility," according to Boeing's Nov. 30 statement.

"The 737 MAX builds upon the legacy of the world's best single-aisle airplane and continues to generate overwhelming response from our customers," Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in the 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."

Boeing said it has received more than 700 commitments from our customers for the 737 MAX, which will enter service in 2017.

A message from the local's negotiating team is posted on the local's website. It lists job security as the #1 highlight of the agreement and says they were secured through firm commitments to manufacturing in the Seattle area. Members will pay more for their health care; pensions for new hires were preserved; 2 percent general wage increases are included for each contract year; and a new program was included to pay bonuses from 2 to 4 percent of annual gross pay "based on achieving easy-to-understand safety, quality and productivity metrics."

"What has resulted is an unprecedented commitment by Boeing to Puget Sound and Portland for the 737MAX and the related manufacturing that's currently being performed here. This will generate long-lasting security for our members. It also resulted in a Boeing commitment to the success and continuation of the other airplane programs where our members have shown time and again their expertise, productivity and quality, resulting in increased profits for the Company," the message states. "Based on many factors -– the current economy, the state of affairs at Boeing and our ability to secure unprecedented Job Security for our members -- we unanimously recommend you vote to accept this proposed contract extension."

The Seattle Times' account of the tentative agreement says it could produce a settlement of the NLRB complaint, if the labor board's general counsel agrees.

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