By Jonathan Kaminsky
OLYMPIA, Washington Nov 18 The leader of Boeing
Co's main union in Washington state faces a revolt that
could complicate efforts to bring the new 777 jetliner to the
Seattle area, as the airplane maker moves to consider
alternative buildings sites for the revamped plane.
Boeing formally launched the new 777, formerly codenamed
777X, on Sunday with 259 orders worth more than $95 billion at
list prices - the largest combined order in its history. The jet
is due to enter service around 2020.
Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Jim McNerney told
reporters in Dubai on Monday that the company expects to make a
decision on where to build its newest jet within 3 months.
"We will be announcing within the next two- to- three months
very specifically plans for manufacturing," he said. "We have a
number of alternatives and we are in the process of considering
The company said it hasn't changed the timing of the
aircraft's arrival, and that it is negotiating with other states
after the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers union rejected a contract offer that Boeing said was
necessary for the jet to be built in Washington.
Boeing officials were on planes to other states the day
after the union vote. The proposed labor deal, which would have
extended the workers' current contract ending in 2016 for eight
years, included cuts to pensions and health care benefits, a
slower rate of wage increases for new workers and a $10,000 cash
bonus per member.
Brokered between Boeing executives and IAM union leaders in
about five weeks, the contract extension was voted down by a 2-1
margin on Wednesday, with dozens of workers at the Seattle union
hall jeering their leadership as sellouts after the results were
After the vote, several union members said they had lost
confidence in IAM District 751 President Tom Wroblewski, who
helped negotiate the deal, then called it "a piece of crap" at a
union meeting, and then wrote a letter to members calling it "an
opportunity we will never see again to secure thousands of
In the days after the vote, two of the four local IAM units
in the Puget Sound area passed votes of no confidence in
Wroblewski and called for his resignation, said a union official
with knowledge of the votes.
Union spokesman Bryan Corliss said that Wroblewski was
travelling this week on union business and would not be
available for an interview.
Corliss said he knew of no plans for Wroblewski to step
down, noting that he was reelected to a four-year term in 2012.
IAM President R. Thomas Buffenbarger has said he backs
Wroblewski, who has not spoken in public since the vote.
Sara Baumgardner, 23, a Boeing mechanic in Everett, said
that while she regrets the mixed messages that Wroblewski sent
his membership over the company's proposal, she believes he was
caught between IAM leadership in Washington D.C., which
supported the deal, and union members in the Seattle area, many
of whom viewed its terms as insulting.
"He's like the president of United States," she said.
"Everything could go wrong in the background but he's the one
who's going to get blamed."
In an interview on Friday, Buffenbarger said Boeing
expressed concern in the contract talks about the smooth launch
of the rival Airbus A350 jet, which he said was driving the
urgency of getting the new 777 program started.
Boeing said on Sunday that the A350 was not a factor in its
speed in getting the 777 development started and declined to
Both Boeing and the union each have said it is up to the
other to restart talks.
David Postman, spokesman for Washington state Governor Jay
Inslee, said the resumption of talks "may be something that both
sides have to do at the same time."
Acknowledging that tensions within the union could
complicate those efforts, Postman said it was the governor's
role to help facilitate such dialog.
"Obviously, it's important to have somebody who can speak to
us, who can effectively represent the union. There is a lot of
tension there. It's evident," Postman said.