Boeing and its Machinists' union have struck a deal that both settles the controversial National Labor Relations Board lawsuit and keeps the new 737 production line in Washington, the Seattle Times is reporting, citing unnamed sources.
According to the report, the union will announce the agreement momentarily, at a 2 p.m. EST news conference.
The agreement is huge news for South Carolina as Boeing's North Charleston plant had been at the center of the NLRB case. While the terms of the deal have not been announced, it would seem the Dreamliner production facility by Charleston International Airport is now in the clear. South Carolina seemed to be only marginally in the running for the 737 MAX production line.
The announcement of the deal comes just a few hours after Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh spoke to investors in New York, saying, among other things, that the company had not chosen where to build the 737 MAX. He also praised the South Carolina operation, echoing a previous statement that certain units at the North Charleston campus are producing above the overall 787 program rate.
The reported agreement also comes almost a year before the existing contract with the Machinists expires and as Boeing begins an across-the-board plane-building ramp-up in an effort to reduce a years-long order backlog.
A letter the Machinsits union's leaders published on its website about the Boeing deal:
In late October, senior executives from Boeing approached us to ask if we could get together to talk about issues that were going to come up in the 2012 contract talks. We agreed to meet with them to hear what they had to say. What resulted was an ongoing dialog and a series of meetings that ended with a proposal by the Company to extend the current contract with some changes in certain areas — but a huge improvement in job security, which was your No. 1 issue in our first survey for the 2012 contract negotiations.
For these meetings, we pulled together our union negotiating teams, who have experience dealing with the various topics the Company wanted to cover: Health and Benefits, Job Security, Pay, Pension and Incentives. Although we had an idea the Company might want to extend the existing contract, we had to wait until they confirmed it in writing that this was their intent.
We did not publicly announce these talks, for reasons we know you understand. In the past, we've gone through negotiations with media, politicians and bloggers second-guessing our moves and trying to determine the outcome while we work against a looming deadline. To make a big public splash this time would have undermined what we were doing and would have gone against the reasons why we agreed to meet with the Company in the first place.
We now know this was the right decision. What has resulted is an unprecedented commitment by Boeing to Puget Sound and Portland for the 737MAX and the related manufacturing that's currently being performed here. This will generate long-lasting security for our members. It also resulted in a Boeing commitment to the success and continuation of the other airplane programs where our members have shown time and again their expertise, productivity and quality, resulting in increased profits for the Company.
Based on many factors – the current economy, the state of affairs at Boeing and our ability to secure unprecedented Job Security for our members -- we unanimously recommend you vote to accept this proposed contract extension.
We need to be clear: this proposal does include some sharing in the increases in Health Care costs, with the amount varying, depending on the plan you choose. Negotiations are about give and take and to achieve gains in Job Security, Pension and Wages, we had to be willing to compromise elsewhere. However, in doing so, we were also able to increase benefit levels in dental and vision, and win protections that cap the amount you will be paying, including guarantees that you won't have to pay any future federal taxes on healthcare plans. In the end, we'll still have health care benefits far superior to those earned by most workers in our industry, and our nation.
On the plus side, there are some significant improvements, which are outlined on these pages. This should be considered as a full package as you discuss this proposal with your family.
Ultimately it is up to you as members to vote whether to accept this contract extension proposal or reject it. Summaries of the proposed contract extension will be available at all Union Halls, and a complete text of the Company's proposal will be available online (www.iam751.org). We urge you to study them carefully.
Taken as a whole, we think you'll like what you see. This proposal addresses what you told us was important to you; therefore we recommend you accept it by voting yes.
Your Union Negotiating Team
Mark A. Blondin, Aerospace Coordinator
Tom Wroblewski, District 751 President
Robert C. Petroff, Assistant Directing Business Rep W24
Steve Rooney, District 70 President
Check back with postandcourier.com later today and in tomorrow's newspaper for more on this major development..