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Inslee joins call for Machinists vote after union leaders reject ‘best and final’ 777X offer

Although the leaders of Boeing’s Puget Sound area Machinists union have rejected a “best and final” offer to keep the 777X in the Puget Sound region, there still appears to be at least a slight hope a deal isn’t dead.

Union leaders rejected Boeing’s new offer Thursday at the conclusion of three days of talks between representatives of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers District 751 and Boeing executives.

The revised 8-year contract extension would have included an additional $5,000 lump sum payable in 2020 on top of the previous $10,000 signing bonus in the original contract extension rejected overwhelmingly by Machinists last month. Employees also would have received additional dental benefits.

The company says the proposal also would have kept in place the current rate in which employees accelerate to the top of the pay scale – commonly referred to as “ZOOM.” And it would have guaranteed work on the new 737 MAX in Renton through

“The price Boeing demanded was too high,” said IAM 751 president Tom Wroblewski in a statement. “Our senior leadership team could not recommend Boeing’s counter-offer.”

Many union members are demanding a chance to vote on the new proposal, and that’s exposed a huge rift between them, local and national union leaders.

“Everyone on the shop floor around me wants to vote,” says 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.”

Gov. Jay Inslee is urging both sides to allow machinists to vote on the proposal.

“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,” Inslee said in a statement.

But Wroblewski says there is no offer to vote on, because Boeing pulled the proposal.

“Boeing’s offer was only on the table Thursday so long as I agreed to recommend the offer and urge you to vote yes on it. But I could not recommend you accept this offer. When I said we couldn’t do that, Boeing withdrew the offer immediately.”

Boeing disputes that in a statement released Friday morning. “The union leadership rejected Boeing’s best and final counterproposal. Boeing did not withdraw its counterproposal, nor was there any need to do so, because the counterproposal was rejected.”

The issue was further clouded by statements made by Rich Michalski, who represented the national leadership of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) in the negotiations. The former IAM executive told the Seattle Times union members would be allowed to vote, contradicting the statements of the local leaders and exposing a significant rift between local and national leaders and the rank-and-file.

Still, Wrobleski insists until Boeing “changes its conditions,” there is nothing to vote on.

“I’m sorry that there has been confusion over this issue, especially by the reported comments of the retired leader from our International headquarters, who seems to be suggesting there’s still an offer hiding out there somewhere, just waiting for you to vote on. I understand that many of you are frustrated, and I don’t blame you.”

Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, Snohomish County Executive John Lovick and Port of Everett Commissioner Troy McClelland are also calling on the union to allow members to vote. The trio issued a statement Friday:

The Boeing Company offer presented to the Machinists Thursday deserves to be voted upon by its membership.

We applaud the Machinists union and The Boeing Company for returning to the bargaining table and working toward a resolution. It is clear progress has been made. This latest proposal responds to concerns presented at the table by the Machinists, and it reflects the demands of a highly competitive, global marketplace.

It is fair and reasonable to allow the men and women who will build the 777X this opportunity to vote. We strongly urge the proposal be presented immediately to the Machinist membership for their consideration.

Moreover, we urge the Machinists to vote yes on this offer to secure the future of aerospace in the state and our competitiveness worldwide. Boeing employees in Washington state build the best airplanes in the world now, and we hope, far into the future.

Boeing says it has continued the process of selecting a new site for the 777X while talking with the union this week and has received “overwhelmingly strong response from interested participants.” The company says it has received proposals from 22 states.

“We entered these discussions to address the concerns we were hearing from our employees,” said Ray Conner, president and CEO, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We’ve listened to the union leadership and had an open dialogue in hopes of moving toward each other. Unfortunately the offer, which would have ensured this great airplane for the Puget Sound region, was immediately rejected by the union leadership.”

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