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Boeing negotiations with machinists expected to be contentious

Mar 8, 2024, 1:40 PM | Updated: 1:48 pm

Boeing workers...

Workers and an unpainted Boeing 737 aircraft are pictured as Boeing's 737 factory teams hold the first day of a "Quality Stand Down" for the 737 program at Boeing's factory in Renton, Washington on January 25, 2024. Alaska Airlines said Thursday it expects a $150 million hit from the Boeing 737 MAX grounding, which will limit its capacity growth in 2024. The airline, which executed an emergency landing on a MAX on January 5 following the mid-flight blowout of a panel on the jet, disclosed the estimates in a securities filing, saying capacity growth will be "at or below the lower end" of its prior estimate. (Photo by Jason Redmond / AFP) (Photo: JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

(Photo: JASON REDMOND/AFP via Getty Images)

Negotiations began Friday morning between Boeing and its largest union.

The International Association of Machinists (IAM) represents more than 32,000 Boeing machinists in the Puget Sound region.

The union said it is looking for a wage increase of more than 40% over three years. They also want their pension back.

“I believe we’re in a very powerful position now,” John Holden, IAM District 751 president, said in a news conference on Friday. “There are many things, the economy, the search for workers that can fill the roles of the future and all industries; I think that gives us a lot of leverage.”

The machinists also want a promise from Boeing it will build its next model of plane here in Western Washington.

Aviation analyst says negotiations come at a critical time

Aviation analyst Mike Dunlop told KIRO Newsradio’s Sam Campbell that negotiations come at a critical time.

“These negotiations are extraordinarily difficult on both sides. They have to be really careful,” Dunlop said. “This is a long-term industry and they should be looking 10-15 years ahead.”

The aerospace company has been on its heels following a series of mishaps with the 737 Max 9, including the incident in January when a passenger door blew off the aircraft while in flight. An unused exit door detached from the aircraft minutes into a scheduled trip from Portland to Ontario, California. Three passengers on the Alaska Airlines plane are suing the airline and Boeing for $1 billion, claiming negligence caused the incident.

Related story: Boeing hasn’t turned over records about work on the panel that blew off a jetliner, US official says

While those investigations have not concluded, Boeing has faced harsh criticism.

Despite an ocean of differences between them, Boeing executives said they are confident they can come up with a deal before the contract expires in September.

In a “Fact Sheet” the company released Monday, Boeing said:

“We are committed to building a strong future for our team, our company and the communities where we live and work. We’re confident we can reach a deal that addresses the needs of our employees while allowing us to win new business in a very competitive global market.”

Boeing said it expects the bulk of the economic discussions to take place this summer.

Meanwhile, Holden said the company needs to bring workers into the fold.

“If the Boeing company wants to be successful, they cannot do it alone,” he told the Seattle Times. “They need the IAM to be successful. They need the workers on the floor, building these airplanes to believe in that vision.”

More Boeing news: Federal safety officials say Boeing fails to meet quality-control standards in manufacturing

It’s been 16 years since Boeing and the IAM have negotiated a full contract.

CEO of Boeing comments on the company’s future

“As we map out our future, this year is very important for our team, our company, and our customers. We look forward to meeting the challenges and the opportunities together,” said CEO of Boeing Commerical Airplanes, Stan Deal, in a video on the manufacturer’s website.

Dunlop said airplanes are very complicated to build and maintain. He said the people working on the line are highly qualified and need to be compensated for that.

“At the same time, prices need to be contained so the company can be competitive with Airbus,” he said.

Dunlop said if he were Beoing, he would come out quickly with what models will replace the 737.

“You have to have a marker for what you’re really going to do. Motivate people by telling them what the vision is and what they are going to do,” Dunlop said.

If either side concedes too much, they will be in trouble in the long-run,” he added.

Bill Kaczaraba is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here. Follow Bill on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email him here.

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