On Thursday an odd local ritual returns when Boeing and Machinists union officials lock themselves in a SeaTac hotel for 10 long days and nights to negotiate the terms of a new contract.

On Thursday an odd local ritual returns when Boeing and Machinists union officials lock themselves in a SeaTac hotel for 10 long days and nights to negotiate the terms of a new contract.

“It’s a lockdown,” said International Association of Machinists (IAM) leader Tom Wroblewski, comparing the SeaTac Doubletree to the “Hotel California,” where “you can never leave.”

“It’s not quite as enjoyable as the song,” said Wroblewski, who took office last year and for the first time leads the union side in the contract talks.

Boeing and the IAM each have booked blocks of rooms. Subcommittees will meet late into the night and the principals may take calls at all hours for consulting or signing off on interim agreements.

“This is a very tense, emotional process,” said Doug Kight, Boeing’s top labor negotiator, who took the post in 2006 and is also new at the head of his side. “You are always drained when you are done.”

The process, which occurs every three years, will determine whether 26,000 Machinists, most of them in the Puget Sound region, will go back to work with a new contract after a vote Sept. 3, or strike for the fourth time in the last two decades.

In exclusive interviews, the two leaders acknowledged an urgent need to move past the bad history between company and union.

But the pressure on each to deliver is intense.

“Boeing has been successful and employees deserve to share in that success,” conceded Kight. “We also need to make sure we can sustain that success. … There must be a bottom line.”

And when Wroblewski meets IAM members these days, the constant question isn’t about whether there will be a strike.

“They ask: ‘How long are we going to be on strike?’ ” said Wroblewski.

His standard response: “My job is to negotiate you a contract, not negotiate a strike.”

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com