SEATTLE – National, state and local political leaders called Friday for a vote on a proposed contract between Boeing and Puget Sound machinists, even though local union leaders have already rejected the company’s latest offer in the high-stakes negotiations to keep thousands of jobs in the state.
The contract would secure work on Boeing’s new 777X airplane at a time when 22 states are competing for those jobs. Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement that union membership gives each worker a say in his or her future and they should have the opportunity to exercise that right.
“That should happen soon, as I have become increasingly concerned that we are at a perilous point in our effort to bring the 777X to Washington state,” said Inslee, who was endorsed by the local Machinists union in his campaign for governor last year.
U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen echoed those comments, expressing concern about the region’s aerospace future if no labor agreement is in place and saying “the time to vote is now.”
Leaders in the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers publicly differed Friday on whether to bring Boeing’s latest contract offer to a vote, exposing tensions within the union over how to handle the negotiations.
National union spokesman Frank Larkin said Friday that officials were exploring the idea of a vote after hundreds of members demanded an opportunity to have a say on the contract to secure work on the 777X. Larkin said members have always had the final say and they have every right to vote on the terms of the offer.
But local union officials said Friday they don’t see any point in bringing it to a vote because it’s too similar to a contract the union rejected a month ago by a 2-to-1 margin.
The latest round of contract talks collapsed Thursday after local Machinists officials said they could not recommend Boeing’s latest proposal to members. Local union spokesman Bryan Corliss said Boeing has withdrawn the contract offer.
Boeing Co. spokesman Doug Alder said, however, that the offer was rejected by the union, not withdrawn.
Boeing has backed away from a proposal that would slow the rate at which employees rise up the pay scale and added an additional $5,000 in bonus pay. The biggest sticking point appears to be the company’s insistence that workers move from a traditional defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution savings plan.
Looming over the talks is the prospect that the company could build the airplane elsewhere. Chicago-based Boeing said it has received proposals from 22 states eager for the 777X jobs, with some proposing multiple sites. The company said 54 sites are now being evaluated.