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Boeing exec calls rejection of contract proposal ‘disappointing’

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner told employees in a message that the Machinists union’s rejection of a new contract proposal that would have the 777X built in the Puget Sound area was disappointing.

“We were sincere in asking for the union leadership’s commitment to support our improved final proposal as a tentative agreement that would be taken to a vote by IAM members with a recommendation for approval. However, that did not happen. The proposal was rejected in short order by IAM-751 leaders. Subsequently, some have asserted that we withdrew our proposal. That’s not the case. We would not back away from an offer we made in good faith to our team. It was a rejection, plain and simple, and we now have to turn and face the reality of the union leadership’s final decision.”

Local union leaders have said they didn’t see the point of bringing the latest offer to a vote because it was too similar to one that was previously rejected. Of particular concern, union officials balked at Boeing’s insistence that workers move from a traditional pension plan to a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

Local union leaders have faced pressure in recent days for declining to put Boeing’s last offer to a vote. Some Machinists in the Puget Sound are planning to rally Wednesday in favor of a vote.

“Everyone on the shop floor around me wants to vote,” said one Machinist who wishes to remain anonymous. “We agree if we got to vote on the last one, we should get to vote on this one. I’m also sure it would pass from talking to my fellow Machinists.”

Political leaders have also said union members should have a chance to determine the fate of the contract offer.

“We’ve heard from some rank and file members and from leadership of the International that the agreement that emerged deserves a vote. 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,” Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement.

The head of the Washington State Labor Council is calling Inslee and Congressman Rick Larsen “disrespectful” for urging the union to allow members to vote on a new contract.

Conner said Tuesday the company is narrowing its options as it searches for a place to build the 777X and that Boeing has already received proposals from 22 states covering 54 sites. The company is looking to narrow its options this week to “a handful” of sites, Conner said.

Production of Boeing’s 777X would likely bring thousands of well-paying jobs to whatever region wins the work. The plane is a new iteration of its strong-selling 777, and the company recently received orders for 225 new 777X planes from three airlines at the Dubai Airshow.

Boeing began offering the 777X in May, but it’s still finalizing plans for the plane and aiming to deliver the first aircraft by the end of the decade. Boeing has said it is expected to carry as many as 400 passengers and be more fuel efficient than the current 777.

Associated Press’ Mike Baker contributed to this report.

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