After months of labor law wrangling and political posturing, airline manufacturer Boeing and the Machinists Union have reached a tentative deal to extend the Washington State-based airplane production workers’ contracts for four years.
If the deal is ratified by its members next week, the union said it would drop the unfair labor practice suit against Boeing that is currently pending before the National Labor Relations Board.
“We believe the proposed extension is good for our members, it’s good for Boeing, it’s good for airline customers and it’s good for communities,” said Machinist Union spokeswoman Connie Kelliher. “It secures a strong future here, provides top-notch pay and benefits and really signals the start of a potential new relationship with Boeing.”
Under the terms of the deal, union workers get job security from the contracts to build Boeing’s new 737 MAX airplane, 700 of which have already been ordered, along with the 3,000 original 737s currently on backorder.
Boeing gets the go-ahead to start production of it’s 787 Dreamliner at it’s newly-built South Carolina facility without the threat of the NLRB forcing them to close because of unfair labor practices.
“We’eve had problems in the past and this is a new era, a new paradigm of how we will be working together going forward,” said Boeing’s labor spokesman Tim Healy. “An agreement like this doesn’t change overnight what’s taken years to develop, but it’s an extremely positive first step.”
The NLRB dispute revolves around Boeing’s decision to build some of the 787 Dreamliners, which are currently being assembled in Washington where workers are unionized, at a new facility in South Carolina, a right to work state. The South Carolina plant would add 1,000 new jobs in a state where unemployment rate currently sits at 10.5 percent, 1.5 percentage points above the national average.
If the labor board ruled in favor of the Machinist Union, Boeing may have had to close the South Carolina plant and move production of the Dreamliner back to Washington.
The labor board dispute has become a litmus test of sorts for Republicans, especially those running for the party’s presidential nominee.
Every GOP presidential candidate has chastised the lawsuit. Mitt Romney called it a “power grab.” Herman Cain said it was “completely unacceptable … political games.” And Newt Gingrich accused the labor board of “basically breaking the law.”