Labor union approves deal with Boeing

The International Association of Machinists union has approved a deal with airplane manufacturer Boeing to build new jets at unionized facilities in Washington state.

For much of the past year, the union and the company have been at odds over Boeings decision to build its new 787 Dreamliner jets in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. The case drew the attention of the National Labor Relations Board, which accused the company of making the decision in retaliation for strikes by workers in Washington.

On Thursday, the IAM said it approved a four-year extension of its agreement with Boeing to build a different kind of jet, the 737 Max, in Puget Sound, Wash., near Seattle. 

This agreement represents a historic moment in changing the relationship between this union and the Boeing Co.,” Machinists Union District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski said in a statement released to union members. “For the first time, company executives are committing to you to keep work in Puget Sound.

“This agreement shows the collective bargaining process is flexible enough to adjust with the times. The process allowed us to be creative and produce a win-win for everyone — our members, Boeing, airline customers, and the community. This is a vote of confidence for job security and a stronger future for this region.”

The IAM said 74 percent of the 31,000 members of the IAM who were eligible to vote cast ballots in favor of the agreement with Boeing.

The company also hailed the deal, saying it has already received 700 commitments from airlines to buy the new 737 airplanes.

“This contract will help secure a better future for our employees, our customers, our communities and our company,” Boeing CEO of Commercial Airplanes Jim Albaugh said in a news release. “It reflects an effort on the part of the company and the union to find a better way to work together and achieve common ground. Its a balanced agreement that makes us more competitive and ensures that the 737 — the best single-aisle airplane in the world — continues to be built by the people who know how to do it best.”

Although the agreement ratified Thursday is not related specifically to the decision to build 787s in South Carolina, the deal could help the NLRB to drop its complaint against Boeing. The company has already opened its new facility in Charleston, S.C., but the NLRB case could force it to move production of the 787s back to Washington state.

The case has become a lightning rod for conservative critics of the Obama administration. GOP presidential candidates vying for support in early-primary state South Carolina have been sharply critical of the labor board.