Machinists dive into the Boeing proposal’s fine print

Some FOD surrounding the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) contract extension

• It’s hard to read the hundreds of comments on the District 751 Facebook page and not conclude that this thing could go down in flames when union members vote Wednesday on Boeing’s offer. Machinists posting there are mostly responding with either “No!” or “Hell, no!”

• Some of them are not even convinced that the company’s promise to build the 777X in Everett is ironclad. And indeed that particular letter of understanding seems to give Boeing a lot of leeway in doing component work and even final assembly elsewhere. To wit:

Nothing in this Letter of Understanding will impact the Company’s right under Section 21.7 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement to make strategic work placement decisions associated with a condition of sale or market access, and to subcontract or offload work due to lack of capability or capacity, to subcontract or offload work to prevent production schedule slippage, or to temporarily subcontract or offload work due to emergent short term needs.

• Meanwhile, one of the more vocal posters on Facebook, Stephen Ramsey, thinks that same letter of understanding is not only not ironclad but shreds the present contract’s 2011 promise by Boeing to build the 737 Max in Renton. Leaving aside the impossibility of building 47 737s per month anywhere but Renton, we’re not sure he’s right about the contract language.

The proposed contract extension says that “except as expressly provided, nothing in this Letter of Understanding will extend the duration of Letter of Understanding 42.” LOU 42 is Boeing’s Renton promise, which “shall remain in full force and effect until assembly of the 737 Max commences in Renton.” That’s just a few years from now. We think the 777X promise simply means the Max promise won’t be extended past the presently defined expiration. We’ve queried a union official but haven’t heard back yet.

• OK, OK, we know, Boeing really, really does want that legislation in Olympia. But we think it’s also true that if the union approved the contract extension and lawmakers did nothing, Boeing would still have to build the 777 in Everett because the contract is legally binding. But as we said above, the opposite is more likely to happen.

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