Report: Union leader wants to withdraw 777X proposal

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 8, 2013

A deal to ensure the Boeing 777X is built in Washington state could be in jeopardy after a union leader tore up the contract proposal in front of angry union members, according to a report from The Seattle Times.

The Boeing Co. has warned it could build its 777X jetliner outside of Washington if the union doesn’t agree to a proposed labor agreement reached earlier this week.

As of Tuesday, it seemed like the deal was cinched, with the union scheduled to vote on the package Wednesday and the Washington Legislature set to convene a special session Thursday to vote on tax incentives. Both deals need to happen for Boeing to build its next aircraft in Washington, said Gov. Jay Inslee.

A deal to ensure the Boeing 777X is built in Washington is in jeopardy after Machinists Union District 751 President Tom Wroblewski tore up the contract proposal in a meeting with union members, according to The Seattle Times. (Photo/Boeing Co.)

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But a meeting Thursday night with hundreds of disgruntled Machinists ended with District 751 President Tom Wroblewski tearing up a copy of Boeing’s contract proposal. He said he would try to have it withdrawn, calling it a “piece of crap,” according to The Seattle Times.

Wroblewski said he wanted to pull the proposal to avoid the scheduled vote next Wednesday, the story said.

A union member who lives in Pierce County in Washington contacted the Charleston Regional Business Journal via Twitter, indicating that he was not behind the proposed contract and found it unacceptable.

In an emailed statement, Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said, “All of our options are still on the table, including those within Boeing and other interest we have received from outside.

“We chose to engage in Puget Sound first, but without full acceptance by the union and Legislature, we will be left with no choice but to open up the process competitively and pursue other options for locating 777X work. If this is not ratified per the scheduled union vote on Nov. 13, we will begin taking the next steps.”

In recent weeks, aerospace analysts have named Boeing’s North Charleston and Long Beach, Calif., as other potential sites for the 777X. Boeing South Carolina has declined to comment on North Charleston as a possible site.

Members of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751 and District Lodge W-24 would make several concessions under the proposed contract, which would end pension accruals for current employees and create a company-funded retirement plan.

In exchange for the 777X guarantee, Boeing proposed an eight-year labor agreement that will expire in September 2024. Additionally, within 30 days of ratification, all union members would be paid a $10,000 signing bonus, according to the labor agreement.

Inslee called the special legislative session Thursday to begin discussing a vote on a package that would extend tax breaks previously passed for the 787 Dreamliner to 2040, among other incentives and infrastructure improvements.

The 777X is expected to debut in 2020 and be Boeing’s “largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world,” the company said.

Boeing engineering teams will carry out the 777X design work in North Charleston, Huntsville, Ala., Long Beach, Philadelphia and St. Louis, according to last week’s memo, which was written by Mike Delaney, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ engineering vice president, and Scott Fancher, airplane development vice president and general manager.

The Boeing Design Center in Moscow also will support design activity.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist.

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