Machinists hope rally will add pressure

Members of Boeing Co.’s Machinists union will rally this morning in Seattle in one of the first public events in the negotiations on a new three-year contract.

This morning’s strike sanction meeting at Safeco Field should be a pretty dramatic event, with rousing speeches and a show of solidarity among the rank-and-file workers who assemble the airplanes, manufacture some of the parts and do the maintenance at Boeing’s Puget Sound-area factories.

Union leaders are looking for a big turnout – a show of strength to signal to management that the work force is united and determined to win contract improvements. The leaders will publicly declare that they’re looking to Boeing to “do the right thing” by improving pensions and health care and providing more job security.

At the same time, it’s a pretty routine procedural event. Members of the International Association of Machinists’ District 751 will most assuredly vote to approve a strike sanction proposal today. But the only thing that will do is trigger an internal union process so workers would be immediately eligible for strike benefits should talks break down and a walkout take place.

Before a strike, union members would have to both reject Boeing’s final contract offer and vote to reaffirm the strike sanction.

Negotiation subcommittees have been meeting regularly since June, and so far the official word from both sides is “optimistic.” Both sides say they’re hopeful of reaching a contract offer agreeable to all.

Blogs from the sky

While the big Boeing news this week is a traditional labor event, next week the company is hoping to make a splash in a new arena – the world of Web logs.

Web logs, or blogs, are part of the Next Big Thing in Internet communication. Pundits (many of them bloggers) predict that more and more of us will get our information from individuals who post news and commentary on their personal Web sites.

It’s an important new way to communicate with the public, said Terrance Scott, a spokesman for Connexion by Boeing, the company’s aerial Internet service.

“We’re working with that community to understand how it fits into the news cycle, how it fits into marketing,” he said.

Bloggers already are using Connexion during flights to keep in touch with people on the ground, Scott said. “We’re seeing a ton of it at 30,000 feet.”

So Connexion on Tuesday plans to take about a half-dozen cutting-edge bloggers – and a couple of us fossils who write words printed on paper – on a demonstration flight to Walla Walla and back.

Blogger DL Byron of Seattle is going. He said he’s looking forward to it.

“We get to see the technology behind how Connexion works,” he said. “For the geek and blogger, that’s pretty interesting stuff.”

Connexion is getting good buzz among bloggers, he said.

Most of what they post to their Web sites from the sky is pretty basic, Byron said. “Hey, check me out. I’m connected wherever I go.”

A lot of the appeal is just being able to remind your spouse to drop off the dry cleaning and pick up the kids, he said.

“The main thing that people want to do is say hello,” Byron said. “I think that’s mostly what Connexion is about.”

Byron and the others plan to blog away during the flight. They’ve even set up a Web site,

I’m planning to file a report from the plane, too. Look for it Tuesday night on my blog, aerospace, and in Wednesday’s paper.

Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or

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