Today’s vote by District 751 Machinists — the workers who build Boeing’s airplanes around the Puget Sound — is the culmination of two frenetic months of talks, ultimatums, and debates.
As its price for a commitment to building the 777X here, Boeing says it wants an extended period of labor peace and some significant concessions in the Machinists’ contract. The debate over that bargain has riveted the region and divided the union itself.
Local union leaders reluctantly put the first version to a vote, and then dismissed a second proposal from Boeing as insufficiently improved and not deserving a vote.
The union’s national chief ordered a vote nonetheless; while arguing that the current offer is worth about $1 billion more to machinists than Boeing’s earlier proposal, the national leadership hasn’t wholeheartedly recommended the new offer, either.
Here’s a short refresher in the ups and down of the past two months.
Nov. 5: Boeing says it will build 777X jet and its large advanced wings in Washington if Legislature enacts an incentive package and Machinists approve a contract extension from 2016 to 2024, with significant concessions.
Nov. 9: Special session of Legislature approves $8.7 billion in tax breaks if Boeing builds 777X in state.
Nov. 13: Machinists vote by 2 to 1 to reject Boeing’s contract.
Nov. 14: Boeing begins search for other sites for 777X wing fabrication and airplane assembly, asking bidders to provide site and facilities at “no cost, or very low cost.”
Dec. 10: Company and union resume talks. States submit their 777X offers to Boeing.
Dec. 12: Boeing makes ‘best and final’ offer; District 751 leadership rejects it, says there’s no need to vote because it’s not much improved.
Dec. 21: Union’s national leaders overrule District 751 and schedule vote for Jan. 3. Later, they allow absentee ballots so members who are still on holiday break can vote.